I can’t start this press release boasting about Yashuhiro Ogawa’s fame and claim in the art ecosystem, as in fact, you probably never heard of him before. With just over 1,000 followers, he is not even a star on Instagram.
Maybe if he was just starting out it might explain why, but Ogawa crossed the milestone of 50-years-old and has dedicated his entire life so far to photography.
In today’s day and age we tend to be attracted to things that move fast. The art world is not save from this approach. Some artists are catapulted to fame and stardom barely leaving school. Photographers are expected to be quick in learning, flash and trendy at a young age, and preferably have a gigantic following on social media. ‘Je pense donc je suis’, has turned into ‘I have likes, therefore I matter’. But Ogawa took his time to be timeless.
Real talent doesn’t need digital likes. You just know when you look at something very special. Ogawa sent us his most recent publication ‘The dreaming’ a few months ago. At Blue Lotus Gallery we were instantly attracted to the work. We ordered ‘The dreaming’ and all Ogawa’s previous book publications for our bookshop. His books flew off our shelves, often picked up by seasoned and connoisseur photo book collectors that were impressed by the quality of his work.
This was not unique to our gallery. In the UK, ‘The dreaming’ topped the chart number 1 of best selling photo books in 2020 at the very well respected PHOTO BOOK STORE which lists over 600 books. People are discovering this so far hidden gem at last. And a gem he is.
So what is it about Ogawa’s work? When I look at this work, I think of the words of the iconic Hong Kong photographer Fan Ho comes to mind: ‘The magic of the black and white lies in the distance to reality, it is in that space that poetry exists.’ This is what Ogawa understands very well. After experimenting with both digital and film cameras he opted to work on black and white film. The grainy, often blurry pictures hide more than they reveal.
“My work is not about documenting the world,” Ogawa said, “it is about looking for, and capturing emotions. I hope the viewer can feel some emotions too when watching my work.” There is something universal about the human emotional life. We all understand the excitement of wanderlust, the feelings of longing and sadness and the warmth of being united with a loved one after a long wait on a cold trainst station platform.
A good friend of mine who is a photography book collector, said: ‘When I look at his work, it seems very abstract and undefined, and I can’t always understand. Yet, I don’t want to understand. I just want to feel what I feel and enjoy this feeling. Very little art touches me on an emotional level as Ogawa’s work does’.
The project we are featuring at Blue Lotus Gallery is Ogawa first solo exhibition in Hong Kong and it is based on his latest book ‘The dreaming’, published in February 2020 in a small print run of 500 copies. The prints shown in the exhibition are all developed by the artist himself in the dark room. For Ogawa ‘The Dreaming’ entails memories of his backpack travelling in his younger days. About thirty years ago, he took the ferry from Kobe to Shanghai and embarked on a long journey through Asia which took him to China (including Tibet), Myanmar, India, Cambodia and other countries. Revisiting these negatives was for the artists as reliving an old dream. But for many of us, these images which echo the feeling of care free travel: the sensation of freedom, longing and waiting… simply feeling alive… seems something we, for now, can only just but dream about.
Yasuhiro Ogawa was born in 1968 in Kanagawa prefecture, Japan. He has had solo and group exhibitions including Futashika-na-Chizu at Kodak Photo Salon, Tokyo (1999), Slowly Down the River at Nikon Salon Ginza, Tokyo (2006), Winter Journey at Doozo Gallery, Rome (2013), Caascade at Sokyusha Gallery, Tokyo (2018) and Contes des iles et Paysages de la Mer du Japon at Inbetween Gallery, Paris (2018).
He has published five photo books such as Slowly Down the River (Creo, 2008), Shimagatari (Sokyusha, 2014), Cascade (Sokyusha, 2017), By the Sea (self-published, 2018) and The Dreaming (Sokyusha, 2020). He has won several awards including the Taiyo Award for his first solo exhibition Futashika-na-Chizu (2000) and The photographic Society of Japan New Comer Award for his first book Slowly Down the River. He was a finalist at the Oskar Barnack Award (2006) and the Hayashi Tadahiko Award (2015).