Hiroshi Watanabe | Places

Posted: June 21st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Film, Los Angeles, New York City, Photography

El Arbolito Park, Quito, Ecuador, 2002 © Hiroshi Watanabe

El Arbolito Park, Quito, Ecuador, 2002 © Hiroshi Watanabe

I go to places that captivate and intrigue me. I am interested in what humans do. I seek to capture people, traditions, and locales that first and foremost are of personal interest. I immerse myself with information on the places prior to leaving, but I try to avoid firm, preconceived ideas. I strive for both calculation and discovery in my work, keeping my mind open for surprises. At times, I envision images I’d like to capture, but when I actually look through the viewfinder, my mind goes blank and I photograph whatever catches my eye. Photographs I return with are usually different from my original concepts. My photographs reflect both genuine interest in my subject as well as a respect for the element of serendipity, while other times I seek pure beauty. The pure enjoyment of this process drives and inspires me. I believe there’s a thread that connects all of my work — my personal vision of the world as a whole. I make every effort to be a faithful visual recorder of the world around me, a world in flux that, at very least in my mind, deserves preservation.

Artist’s statement, Hiroshi Watanabe

Music Notes, Nakatsugawa, Japan, 2004 © Hiroshi Watanabe

Music Notes, Nakatsugawa, Japan, 2004 © Hiroshi Watanabe

White Terns, Midway Atoll, 2000 © Hiroshi Watanabe

White Terns, Midway Atoll, 2000 © Hiroshi Watanabe

Whales Eye, Anaheim, CA, 2004 © Hiroshi Watanabe

Whales Eye, Anaheim, CA, 2004 © Hiroshi Watanabe

Bora Bora, Tahiti, 1997 © Hiroshi Watanabe

Bora Bora, Tahiti, 1997 © Hiroshi Watanabe

Mandalay, Burma, 2000 © Hiroshi Watanabe

Mandalay, Burma, 2000 © Hiroshi Watanabe

Santa Monica Pier, 2000 © Hiroshi Watanabe

Santa Monica Pier, 2000 © Hiroshi Watanabe

Battery Park, New York, 2000 © Hiroshi Watanabe

Battery Park, New York, 2000 © Hiroshi Watanabe

Liberty State Park, New Jersey, 2004 © Hiroshi Watanabe

Liberty State Park, New Jersey, 2004 © Hiroshi Watanabe

Tsutenkaku, Osaka, Japan, 2004 © Hiroshi Watanabe

Tsutenkaku, Osaka, Japan, 2004 © Hiroshi Watanabe

Salmon Heads, Sapporo, Japan, 2004 © Hiroshi Watanabe

Salmon Heads, Sapporo, Japan, 2004 © Hiroshi Watanabe

International Fountain, Seattle, 2000 © Hiroshi Watanabe

International Fountain, Seattle, 2000 © Hiroshi Watanabe

China Town, Portland, Oregon, 2004 © Hiroshi Watanabe

China Town, Portland, Oregon, 2004 © Hiroshi Watanabe

Standing Woman, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1997 © Hiroshi Watanabe

Standing Woman, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1997 © Hiroshi Watanabe

Kabukiza, Tokyo, Japan, 2004 © Hiroshi Watanabe

Kabukiza, Tokyo, Japan, 2004 © Hiroshi Watanabe


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Looking In: Robert Frank’s “The Americans”

Posted: September 5th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Books, Film, Photography, Quotes

September 22, 2009 through January 3, 2010, The Metropolitan Museum of Art will be hosting the exhibit, Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans. Organized by the National Gallery of Art, the exhibit has traveled from DC to San Francisco, ending in New York. The new exhibit and book are a celebration of the 50th anniversary of The Americans, one of the most influential single series of photographs ever published. The exhibit will feature all 83 photos from the book that were made on his cross-country road trip from 1955-56.

On Friday, October 9th, Robert Frank will be appearing in conversation with the curators and organizers of this presentation at the Met. Do not miss this, as Frank does not make many public appearances these days. Purchase tickets here. I already have mine and am sure it will sell out soon.

Whether you attend or not, purchase the book right now. The expanded hardcover features 83 pages of contact sheets which are a treasure unto themselves (the softcover is an abridged version and does not offer all of the contact sheets.) I have had the book for two weeks and have barely made a dent in it because of the richness offered and the lessons to be learned. The Americans and Robert Frank’s body of work were already inestimable contributions and as familiar as I am with those 83 images, I am stunned by how little I understood the skill and remarkable taste Frank had in his choices, the sequencing of the images, cropping and yes, even grant writing (the original letters are included.)

It is truly an eye-opening experience into how complete his talents are and how the mix of of them achieved a perfect balance with The Americans.

The one thing I will share is the tiniest snippet of a lesson I am absorbing. The shot of the elevator girl in Miami Beach has always been a favorite of mine. Below is an excerpt from the contact sheet with that image on it. You can see Frank working the situation and the idea over 14 frames.

Cartier-Bresson once said of contact sheets:

My contact sheets may be compared to the way you drive a nail in a plank. First you give several light taps to build up a rhythm and align the nail with the wood. Then, much more quickly, and with as few strokes as possible, you hit the nail forcefully on the head and drive it in.

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Elevator, Miami Beach, 1955, Robert Frank

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Excerpt from contact sheet from the book: Looking In: Robert Frank’s “The Americans”


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Helen Levitt, 1913 – 2009

Posted: August 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Books, Film, Leica, New York City, Photography, Quotes

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon this little alcove in the Metropolitan Museum of Art that was dedicated to the photographs of Helen Levitt, a small tribute to her work in light of her death in March 2009. I had been familiar with her work in passing but I had never seen any of her photos in person. These small dark prints had such delight and spoke so honestly of the street and in the capacity for the squalor of pre-war New York to be playful and whimsical.

Helen shot on the streets of New York most of her life (excepting a series in Mexico City) and documented the neighborhoods and sidewalk dwellers with an eye towards the lighthearted frolic of daily life that contrasted with the harsh urban streets, giving her images a surrealist quality. She had abandoned her large format camera after seeing an exhibit by Cartier-Bresson and began to use the 35mm Leica, occasionally with a prism to disguise the fact that she was photographing a subject.

She was a film editor and director and worked for Buñuel, works which I have not yet seen. In later years she used color, but for my own tastes, her images from the thirties and forties remain evocative and stirring.

Powerhouse Books has published several books of hers, some of which I will be buying shortly.

From the New York Times obituary.

Changes in neighborhood life also affected her work. “I go where there’s a lot of activity,” she said. “Children used to be outside. Now the streets are empty. People are indoors looking at television or something.”

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Helen Levitt, Los Angeles Times, 1963

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Helen Levitt, New York City, c 1939

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Helen Levitt, New York City, c 1940

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Helen Levitt, New York City, 1942

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Helen Levitt, New York City, 1940

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Helen Levitt, New York City, 1939

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Helen Levitt, New York City, c 1940

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Helen Levitt, New York c. 1945

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Helen Levitt, New York c. 1942

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Helen Levitt, Street Drawing, New York, 1940

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Helen Levitt, New York c. 1942

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Helen Levitt, New York City, c 1940

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Helen Levitt, New York c. 1942

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Helen Levitt, New York c. 1945

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Helen Levitt, New York c. 1942

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Helen Levitt, New York c. 1940


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The Met

Posted: April 22nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Architecture, dougKIM photography, Film, Leica, New York City

I love museums. Architecture for most means fixating on the outer form of a building. For me the quality of the interior space defined by this form is paramount.

These spaces can be such quiet mazes, winding through somber, reflective rooms.

the metropolitan museum of art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art © Doug Kim


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