Book review // Utatane by Rinko Kawauchi

by Jesse Freeman

Jesse’s book review, Utatane by Rinko Kawauchi
This week we have a wonderfully understated and underrated photobook from Japan. Rinko Kawauchi’s work is sublime and thoughtful. This is a real joy to read.

“Unconventionally conventional” must have been the oxymoron statement to make when Rinko Kawauchi came on the contemporary photography scene in 2001. On one hand she simultaneously released her first three books (the one here is one of the initial three) to the world in effect launching herself, yet did it with photos of fish, clouds, fried eggs, ants, and the sky. I was given this book some years back from a friend and I guess now for a few reasons I simply didn’t get it then as I do now. When I received the book, I had already started on the Japanese photography scene and came to find her photos indicative of what I see from most Japanese female photographers in the galleries here in Shinjuku (in a way a point I will make whenever I review Abe Jun’s Kokubyaku).  What I didn’t understand then as I do know was that really Kawauchi was first to bring this style to the mainstream, as I was so used to seeing  it put forth that I couldn’t truly appreciate…which says a lot about her influence. What really got me into her later was not the greatness of her individual images, but the sheer editing of them.  In the previous Kitai Kazuo book I reviewed, I allude to the editing as the book’s strong suit; however it is truly the case with Kawauchi.


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