Rinko Kawauchi, Aila

JTF (just the facts): Rinko Kawauchi, Aila, published in 2005 by FOIL. (Cover image at right.) This book is a revised edition of the book originally published by Little More in 2004. 165 color images (one image per page), with no text (also no pagination or image titles).

Comments/Context: It is always interesting to watch to see which new emerging photographers somehow find a way to break through the noise and separate themselves from all the others trying to get attention. Rinko Kawauchi is a Japanese photographer in her mid 30s who has published a handful of books, won a few international prizes, and generated a surprising amount of buzz. When the press releases use phrases like “one of most celebrated photographers of her generation” for someone you have barely heard of, you know the spin is on. So when we recently came across her book, Aila, we felt compelled to get a better handle on her work.

Aila is a carefully sequenced group of primarily square format color images of what might be called “the essence of life”. There are images of baby animals, insects, flower and plant seedlings, and births of various kinds (human and animal), mixed with a few pictures of waves, sand and forests. If you haven’t seen these works (one of the series is shown at left), you are probably thinking to yourself about now that this sounds like the ultimate in tired, self important, camera club cliche.

And yet, there is an unexpected sensitivity to many of these images. Most are lit with a fresh, almost unreal, white light that gives them a fleeting, dreamy quality. While there are a few darker moods interspersed in this body of work, most of the pictures have an authentic, youthful innocence and optimism to them that has been missing from the vast majority of contemporary photography in recent times. Aila means “big family” in Turkish, and taken together, the collective group of pictures does have an inclusive, real sense of family and natural interconnectedness.
There is clearly some unevenness in quality from page to page in this book; more than a few of these pictures descend into the world of snapshots. But this criticism notwithstanding, there is a clear, consistent and new point of view here. Could it be that we’re all tired of fear and skepticism and that hope is back in style?
Collector’s POV: While Kawauchi’s work doesn’t fit well into our particular collection, I can see why others might find a group of her best images, hung together in a grid, to be quite striking. Kawauchi has had shows at Galerie Priska Pasquer in Cologne (site here) in 2006 and Cohan and Leslie in New York (site here) in 2007, but her work has not appeared on the secondary market until recently. A set of 9 images from the Aila series are up for sale at Sotheby’s London (preview here), with an estimate of 12000-18000 Pounds (the images are each approximately 10 inches square and are individually from editions of 6). Regardless of these market facts, the book itself is a winner and well worth having in your library.
UPDATE: The set of 9 images up for sale at Sotheby’s London (referenced above) was bought in.

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One comment

  1. Anonymous /

    Mountain Fold Gallery also has prints and books. I have purchased from them. ask@mfoldgallery.com if anyone is having trouble finding her work for purchase

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