“I look at a photograph. It is an image that I shot some time ago. It has been just long enough since I shot the image that I am fuzzy on the exact circumstances of the time. What was I thinking then? There probably wasn’t a particular reason I made the exposure, but there was some sequence of events that resulted in releasing the shutter. What was my intention? I cannot remember; or, perhaps, the me of here and now can no longer know what it was.” – Daisuke Yokota
Last week saw the launch of Granta: Japan, which features some extraordinary work by photographer Daisuke Yokota (b. 1983).
Yokota describes his photography as being in part an attempt to visualise memory, “what we remember, as well as what we don’t”. His photographs challenge our temporal connection to a medium usually so grounded in a specific moment. It is so far removed from Cartier-Bresson’s ‘decisive moment’ it almost makes you wonder how they can both be called Photographers.
For Yokota, composing a shot and pressing the shutter are just the beginning of an extraordinary working process. Images are taken first on a digital camera. Yokota takes lots of images. I mean lots of images. Some days, he said (whilst in conversation with the Tate’s Simon Baker at the Granta launch), he might take 3,000 pictures. Then, when he feels like making something – a book say - Yokota delves into his hard-drives and pulls out a bunch of pictures that fit his mood. These images are printed and then re-photographed on film. This re-photographing may go on and on, until the moment in which the photograph was initially taken seems totally inconsequential.
Yokota likes to experiment with what he calls ‘the potentiality of film’. Areas of grain are enlarged and parts of the negatives are singed. Darkroom techniques such as solarisation, use of over heated developer fluid and out-of-date fixer, allow him to relinquish a certain amount of control, and open his work up to unknown possibilities. The images published in Granta: Japan (taken from Yokota’s 2013 book Site/Cloud) are ethereal, ghostly and dreamlike. They all seem to be clouded in a mist, or a film. You’re forced to look through them to see them.
Then there is the acid. In his latest work, published by Goliga, Yokota adds a further performative element to his process. Images are screen-printed onto paper coated with brass. Acetic acid is then splashed on to the prints and areas begin to discolour and burn away. Depending on the atmospheric conditions – temperature, moisture – the affects are totally unpredictable, making each set of prints in the edition unique. The affect the acid has on the prints can go on for days, further challenging the notion of a photograph being a representation of a single moment.