I bought this Shōji Ueda book in 2016 because quite a few critics were raving about it, but I knew very little about him otherwise.
From a recent exhibition in Huashan 1914 – Creative Park in Taipei, I learned that Ueda only wanted to enjoy his photography as an amateur, didn’t like traveling, and received his first, and perhaps his only commercial commission in his 70s.
He also refused to be embroiled in the debate between staged and naturalistic photography, always insisting on doing things his own way.
I like the book for what it is but I think it is too far-fetch to say it is photo book of the year. But choice is personal so I will respect what others feel.
The book is an interpretation of a body of works by a famous photographer who died 20 years ago.
The editors cleverly pulled together images from different sets to create a narrative, accompanied by a short story. It is a good way of sampling a person’s life works.
And anytime someone’s works is given such attention and love, there is a natural tendency to elevate it to a different level.
I think it is an innovative way of packaging works and people are craving for such things, as compared to the more conventional approaches.
It is not the first time in recent years that a Japanese body of works received such crazy responses. A Criminal Investigation by Watabe Yukichi a few years ago caused lots of waves too.
Photography is certainly more ‘interesting’ when we throw away the old hang-up of dividing genres up and then trying to stick to category.
Shōji Ueda’s book is good use of photography in a freer fictional form.
When I first encountered Chris Marker’s La Jette, I thought “wow, crazy” and that inspired Becoming Capa. Then I saw William Klein’s and Sarah Moon’s short films, I’m like “wait, that’s crazy too”.
After articulating my own thoughts, I can understand better why the critics are gaga over this Ueda collection.
Strange, isn’t it?