Not long ago somebody from Japan contacted me via my facebook page to tell me the photos I post on instagram made her think of a Japanese photographer I had never heard about until then. His name was Shoji Ueda. I went immediately to search for him, without knowing what a interesting time I was about to have while browsing the results.
Shoji Ueda was born in 1913 in Tottori (Japan), and died in 2000. I am sure I am not too wrong in saying that he may well be one of the very first minimal surrealist photographers that ever existed. From reading about his life it seems he had a happy one, with his wife and three children, all of whom appear often in his photos.
My personal journey of discovering Ueda’s work first focused in something I deeply relate to: the use of vast negative, natural spaces. Ueda found the ideal backdrop for this photos in the sand dunes that are close to his native town. In my perception, the negative space in Ueda’s photos acts as an amplifier to the message or emotion encoded in the main subject. What the subject is saying or depicting, seems to echo to me as the observer in increasingly amplified ripples as I look, each making me often realise something different about ‘the subject’.
Ueda’s photos often portray people who rarely look at the observer directly. Sometimes a photo will depict a single individual, who, in interaction with the space around them, makes me think about the relativity of events on a ‘large’ and ‘small’ scale. A game in which a tiny human character makes an umbrella as important as a huge passing cloud.
Other times Ueda depicts groups of people in ways that I find deeply fascinating. The connection between each individual and the surrounding space is explicit. Body language is never, ever flat. Quite the contrary, it makes you wonder about the character. Then as a group, there are clear connections in a game of joint disjointness that I can see how brings many people – and me as well – to think about surrealism.
During the more mature stages of his career, Ueda worked with medium format film Pentax 645 camera, and developed his photos almost always in black and white. I am yet to learn more about Ueda’s conceptual and emotional drives, but without a doubt he became an instant influence for the work I am currently producing.