The limitations of a medium can also be its artistic freedom

by John L. Tran

Special To The Japan Times

One of the reasons some photographers have resisted the idea of moving from film to digital is that even the cheapest film can capture the subtleties of continuous tone from deep shadow to very bright light. This is something that, despite their sophistication, digital cameras do with varying degrees of success. New work by the young photographer Yosuke Takeda shows how this mechanical limitation can be turned into a positive feature.

These semi-abstract works, which look as if Monet had simultaneously discovered lilies, photography and recreational drugs at the same time, are part of a body of work that varies considerably; going from the street snapshot to graphic minimalist black-and-white compositions. The exhibition at Taka Ishii Gallery in Kiyosumi, Tokyo, shows one or two examples of very different images, including a large photo of a stuffed polar bear, one of a transit of Venus and another of a full solar eclipse.

At the entrance to the exhibition is a macro shot of the bottom of a curtain, which has been transformed into a sensual composition that could be mistaken for sand dunes or the curves of a nude. The careful balance of diversity and selection heightens both Takeda’s talent for capturing the enigmatic and the impression that he is using photography as a way of “thinking things through.”

Though Takeda’s work is pensive, it is as much about the senses as about thought. He was particularly interested in Edmund Husserl and phenomenology while studying philosophy at university, and this is partly reflected in his experimentation with how photography and perception can alter as materials change. The centerpiece of the exhibition at the Kiyosumi venue, “144540″, is a brightly colored view through the leaves of a forest in the mountains of Aichi Prefecture, taken in the early morning. The image was created using an old analog-era lens on a digital camera resulting in flare and blown-out highlights where no information was recorded — two things that are usually considered undesirable in photography.

Meanwhile, the Taka Ishii Gallery Modern in Roppongi is also showcasing the unordered proofs for the “Stay Gold” publication — a reinforcement of the impression that to Takeda process is of equal value as the “completed” art object.

This being said, the title of Takeda’s undertaking, an exuberant and defiant comeback to the line “nothing gold can stay,” originally from a very ukiyo-e- spirited poem by Robert Frost on the ephemerality of earthly beauty, is a statement that the actual material of photography should also be considered important. Not necessarily in the sense that it allows us to hold onto the past, but because it is lasting evidence of the acts of creativity and perception.

“Stay Gold” at Taka Ishii Gallery and “Stay Gold: Color Proof at Taka Ishii Gallery Modern both run till April 19. Both galleries are open 12 p.m.-7 p.m. Free admission. Closed Sun. Mon and holidays. www.takaishiigallery.com. There are also two other concurrent Takeda shows at Kurenboh (www.kurenboh.com) and Traumaris (www.traumaris.jp).