Musings Naomi Yanagimoto
Browsing in a bookshop one day, I picked a book off the shelf and began flipping through the pages. Immediately I was drawn in by the vitality of its opening passage.
“At half-past eight in the morning of May 1, 1847, two monads destined to sully paper with ink, blending into one as they continued onward, set off from Paris with the desire to be surrounded by heather and Scotch broom, or to relax on an expansive sandy beach…. Knapsacks on their backs, hobnail shoes on their feet, walking sticks in hand and smoking pipes in their mouths, they set off on a journey of whim.”
The passage is from Gustave Flaubert’s Voyage en Bretagne: Par les champs et par les grèves (Over Strand and Field: A Record of Travel through Brittany). The “two monads” are Flaubert and his travelmate, Maxime du Camp, co-writer of their travelogue.
Wherever they travel, the pair are not only uplifted by their natural surroundings; with brutal candor they also criticize what lay before their eyes, providing fodder for their stinging assault on the times.
The opening passage to their work brought back to mind the weighty significance of travel, and I was immediately made to ponder its link with photography.
Our sensory perceptions begin from comparisons. Or perhaps I should say they start from doubts. In order to feel enjoyment or despair, heat or pain, we unconsciously rush to make comparisons. Harboring doubts, and then thinking about their whys and wherefores, is how we think. Travel is a device that gives us the opportunities to engage in such thinking. And photography was a method indispensable to that device.
Such was how my connection with photography got started. Photography was a metaphor for wanting to travel. It was a tool not for expressing what I know, but for bringing to me what I do not know. In other words, it was a tool serving as a device that would spur my interest away from myself and toward others. The feelings embraced by Flaubert on setting out on his journey with du Camp overlap with what I felt when I first became involved in photography. It’s rather presumptuous of me to say that, I know.
It has been said that photography is a universal language that goes beyond borders and can be understood by anyone. That still holds true today in a sense – in the sense that it is a code. Though we may not know the language of a child appearing in a photo, we still know that it is a child.
Code-like photos of that kind were not the photos that shone brilliantly in my eyes, however. To me, brilliant photos were not things that convey what we know; photos were brilliant because they held no certainties – certainties toward their being beautiful, or precious, or in need of rectification or improvement.
Photography is a technology of reduction – reduction that comes from our constant desire to know the whole. Strangely, this desire has no connection to wanting to see relationships between what is at the center and what supports it: in other words, the key player and everything else.
I thought it is wonderful how everything in one small photograph proclaims its existence equivalently.
The steam locomotive first appeared in the early 19th century, and it took nearly a hundred years for it to spread worldwide. The same seems to be true of the spread of electricity too, and then of telephones after that. The telephone first appeared in the late 19th century, and it took almost a hundred years before people no longer thought of it as a curiosity. It is in such leisurely paced timeframes that various notions – and the ways of thinking that equate to accumulations of such notions – have been forged throughout time.
The period when I encountered photography was about one hundred years after its birth. One could say that those were days when photography had finally become familiar down to the core. And it is precisely for that reason that I was able to encounter “new photography.”
Decades have passed since then, and yet photography remains new even today. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it makes me discover new things.
What this indicates is that photography is greatly involved in the process by which our ways of thinking are formed. That’s because our ways of thinking derive from accumulations of what we feel and think.
I imagine one could safely substitute “I” in the above with “Toshio Enomoto.”
The photography of Toshio Enomoto too is in no way self-narrative. His photographs are intents based on seeing and then storing up those visual images internally. Those intents make those who view his photos conjure up something and think of something new.
Being of virtually the same generation, Mr. Enomoto and I both got started in photography as a result of enthrallment with its new qualities. And viewing his photos today, it is clear that his quest to take photos that generate such thrills has not changed in the least.
Things shown in photos are all in the past tense, but there is always a door here to the unknown, a clue to imagination. Photos presented as such have a quality that never goes stale. I believe that Mr. Enomoto discovered that quality of photography long ago and has continued to pursue that quality all through the years. That thought seems to waft, visibly, in each of his photographs.
Departing on a trip. In other words, leaving home to go take photos, recording what one sees before one’s eyes. With this method, no diffidence is needed…. The thoughts that run through one’s mind are almost visible.
When a faint white light begins to appear on the ridge of the Higashiyama range, the city of Kyoto becomes enfolded in a veil unique to mountain hollows. The still air takes on an ink-washed appearance. In early morning, when the Kamo River commences its transition from monotone to color, the roof tiles of the temples along Higashiyama glisten in their shimmering backlight, and Kyoto awakens from its sleep.
Standing during those fleeting moments at the edge of Mirror Pond at Kinkakuji, I gaze upon the three-story Golden Pavilion, somber in the absence of sunlight, as it stirs in an instant from darkness to gold.
I have always been drawn to mornings when a haloed contour announces something’s existence, and to evening instants when it sinks back into darkness. In the evanescence and fleetingness of existence that arises out of darkness and sinks back into it lies the beauty of impermanence.
I have long desired to capture such moments of subtle change in photos: the face of a courtesan in white makeup emerging in the light of a Japanese candle, cherry blossoms scattering hurriedly in a spring storm, thunder announcing the arrival of spring, and so on.
The theme running through my photos of the Golden Pavilion, cherry trees and courtesans is something very Japanese – something I believe can be expressed only in monochrome.
Toshio Enomoto was born in Tokyo in 1947. A graduate of Tokyo Zokei University, he initially worked at Nippon Design Center before going freelance. He held his first solo exhibition, “Hibi” (Day by Day), in 1972 at Nikon Salon; that same year, he also completed a road journey along the ancient Silk Road.
In 1974 he held his second one-man show, “Tooi higashi” (Far East), again at Nikon Salon. His third exhibition was “Tayuu”, held in 1983 at the Kyoto Craft Center. A fourth show took place in 2001, “Kaika” (Flowering) at Kita Kamakura YTSU Gallery, followed by a fifth, “Hakumei no kioku” (Twilight Memories) in 2008 at Gallery Bauhaus,followed by a sixth,"Arlequin"in 2009 at Nikon salon,2010 first overseas private exhibition "Kagirohi" at Galerie Wouter van Leeuwen in Amsterdam.
2010 "Summer Love" Group exhibition at Huis Marselle Museum for Photography,Amsterdam.
2011 "SAKURA" Group exhibition at MiCHEKO GALERIE in Munchen.
2012 private exhibition "Kagirohi" MiCHEKO GALERIE in Munchen.
In 1993 Enomoto published his photo book Far East (Total Planning Publishing House).
He is a member of the Japan Professional Photographers Society.
Toshio Enomoto "Twilight Memories: Kyoto"
When the horizon of mountain ridges around Higashiyama starts to turn faintly white at dusk, Kyoto begins to be enveloped in a magical shimmering shade of pale, as if movement itself is stopped in its tracks. The following morning at dawn, as the Kamogawa river slowly turns from a monotone shade and gets colored in by the approaching sunlight, the temple roofs lining the river gleam with the refracted light, signaling the awakening of Kyoto from slumber and the beginning of another day. In this brief pause, as one approaches the mirrored lake of Kinkakuji (the Golden Pavilion), you can witness the magical transition in hue, the temple building that is still silvery and dusky turning slowly golden.
These quintessentially Japanese landscapes - golden pavilions, cherry trees, Noh actors - are adeptly captured in monochrome in these photographs.