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Illuminating the mundane

INTERVIEW. One of four recent finalists in the revered Deutsche Börse Prize, Rinko Kawauchi's photographs are now on display at the C/O Gallery.

Image for Illuminating the mundane
Photo by Tania Castellví

Born 1972 in Shiga, west of Japan’s Honshu Island, Rinko Kawauchi is rapidly becoming a household name in the world of photography.

Her work, which delicately speaks of family, the cycle of life and human interaction with nature, earned her accolades as one of four recent finalists in the revered Deutsche Börse Prize, now on display at C/O Gallery (see review, left). When looking at the carefully selected images of Kawauchi’s Illuminance series, it’s as if your nose has been tickled ever-so-lightly with a feather and the world wears rose-coloured glasses… only to be shocked back to earth by blinding lights and animal carcasses.

Why photography?

Photography simply suited me, it interested me. I started when I was 19 and no one else in my family was interested in it.

Would you consider photography a hobby or a job now?

It was never a hobby for me; it’s not a job for me. It is my life.

How was it growing up in Japan as a photographer?

When I began with photography there were fewer jobs, fewer exhibition opportunities. I really felt then that it would only get harder after that. Abroad there were more exhibition spaces. One simply had more opportunities. Nowadays this situation has improved in Japan, however.

Your work has been compared to haiku in that you evoke wonder from mundane everyday things.

Haikus mean a different thing in Japan than they do abroad. Haikus are not mundane, they are a particular form of art.

 Describe Illuminance to me.

Illuminance is not directly about light or the view of the light, but rather about the strength of the light. For example: I see the sky every day. If I’m in a good mood I’ll see it as bright blue, and if I’m in a bad mood I’ll see it as dull and grey. This is what Illuminance is all about – the differing views.

The positioning of the photos is important to you, how did you decide which photos to choose?

Yes it’s important for me, I always choose carefully which photos go next to each other.

You brought out your first three photography books at the same time 10 years ago. What are the thematically motivating differences for Illuminance in comparison to your last few books?

Every time I create a book I work with a different theme, but they all deal with similar issues. I’ve gained a lot of experience in the last 10 years and this is evident in Illuminance. Illuminance is about various perceptions.

Why do you choose the book format for your photography?

I love books. During my childhood I was obsessed with books – I like them because I can enter a different world. I like that when my photos are in book format you can take them with you on the go.

What camera did you use for Illuminance?

I use various cameras normally, but for Illuminance I used two. I mostly used my Rolleiflex camera but there’s a few taken with my Hasselblad camera.

What is the significance of babies in your work?

They crop up continuously. There are two reasons for that. They signify life and rejuvenation. They are a symbol for vitality. I can communicate very well with this theme. And the second reason is because they are aesthetically beautiful.

What is your next project?

My new project is being shown in a photography museum in Tokyo. I used a different camera for this project that is a lot bigger. It will be brought out as a book next year.

RINKO KAWAUCHI Nov 10-Jan 13 | C/O Gallery, Oranienburger Str. 35/36, Mitte, S-Bhf Oranienburger Str. Daily 11-20