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Photographs by Masao Yamamoto.
Nazraeli Press, Tucson, 2005. 42 pp., 59 four-color plates, 13x16".

Out of Print. Copy is in Very Fine condition with a Very Fine dust jacket. 

If this writing were to reflect the work it considers, I should arrange a few words like butterflies within the space allotted. But instead I tell a love story. I first saw a photograph by Masao Yamamoto in the context of a large group show. Amidst vivid and diverse works including a towering Starn brothers' Buddha, I stayed with a quiet picture that would fit in my hand. A tiny ballerina with her toes pointed and feet crossed floated in black space-a trail of dust beneath giving her direction through the void.

Yamamoto makes intimate picture objects with distressed and stained surfaces that seem warmed by time. He installs hundreds of small images clumped like migrating birds and affixed directly to gallery walls. A student of Zen philosophy, Yamamoto's integration of negative space mirrors the varied contemplations of emptiness and concern for the way that one thing relates to another within each image.

His latest monograph, É, continues elegant work toward collapsing the illusion of separation between form and content. The book is both an installation unfolding in time as well as a sumptuous physical object. Pages, as analogs of walls, are mostly empty space with picture clusters creating secondary compositions. The sensitive book design creates a complete viewing experience that, like a great exhibition, rewards revisiting. Its oversize form with an abundance of uncoated Japanese paper makes each page, turned with intention, sound crisp in your hand. The sense of being in contact with the photographic objects is heightened by reproduction that includes the curled edges of prints casting shadows on the pages, though occasionally the shadows seem overly defined. Compositions are fresh, yet some images walk the familiar line between adoring and dehumanizing the abstracted female form. Contiguity reaches a stunning crescendo at a double gatefold over four feet wide printed in richer colors as if the book's center were kept moist by its surrounding pages. — JULIE ANAND

This review was originally published in the Fall 2006 issue of the photo-eye Booklist. To learn more about the Booklist click here.

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