Kanade Hamamoto, midday ghost

JTF (just the facts): Published in 2020 by Hito Press (here). Softcover with exposed codex binding (200mm x 140mm), housed inside cardboard sleeve with tipped in image, 288 pages, with 91 color reproductions and a fold-out poster. There are no texts or essays included. Design by Hiromi Fujita. (Cover and spread shots below.)

Comments/Context: If someone asked me to pick the stereotypical time and place for a ghost sighting, I’d almost immediately choose night, likely in some spooky, empty place like an old abandoned house or a graveyard. Popular culture and horror films have trained us to think this way, maybe because ethereal ghosts are easier to see (or happier to come out of hiding) when they are set against a dark background, or maybe that time of night seems to offer more opportunities for lonely walks and scary surprises. But we hardly ever hear of ghost stories that take place in broad daylight. Is it that the ghosts are inherently sun shy, or is it possible that they’re actually here all around us, haunting our everyday routines in full view, but just much harder to see during the day?

Kanade Hamamoto’s recent photobook midday ghost takes this fanciful idea as its inspirational jumping off point. Eschewing the crisp perfection of digital, Hamamoto has opted to return to film photography, using broken cameras, light leaks, bright flares, deliberate blurring and fogging, and other chance distortions to help her consider how daytime ghosts might be presenting themselves. As a young photographer trying to find her own aesthetic entry point into the medium, trying to photograph the essence of the fleetingly visible (or invisible) provides plenty of visual and conceptual challenges to sink her teeth into.

By setting up this ghostly framework, Hamamoto gives us specific vantage point from which to view her pictures. Warm light across flowers and grasses could be a ghost, as could an indistinct beach portrait, a disembodied hand, a flash of light off a car window, or a swirling bubble floating through the air. It’s a surprisingly lovely way to think about photographs where light plays its many tricks and found oddities defy easy explanation. She notices – almost, we can imagine, out of the corner of her eye – reflections in windows, light across a young woman’s ear, afternoon sun cast through curtains, and various sparkles of light momentarily visible on everything from train station seats to skyscraper exteriors. And as we tune into her perspective, we start to see what might be faces in layered window reflections, something strange in ethereal striped hands in water, and maybe even a friendly spirit in light flaring through treetops and snowstorms. Even the unlikely obviousness of wet jeans (turned two-tone), a dripping shirt made transparent, and a snapshot cut off to show only feet on a beach suddenly might be evidence of yet another ghostly presence. As the pages turn, she shows us indistinctness at every turn, our everyday world suddenly filled with small moments of grace and uncertainty.

And then something even odder happens – we turn the page and it is blank white, and we turn the next and it is too, again, and again, and again, and again, for some 70 odd pages of nothing but empty white pages. This is more than a line break in a poem, a pause, or a few pages of separation between photobook sections. It is a deliberate envelopment in nothingness, an immersion in strange visual quiet, and it performs the function of transporting us through a tunnel of ghostly whiteness, where the rhythms of the page turns keep reinforcing the lack of imagery, until at last we are offered a female face, which turns out to be washed out, blurry, and impossible to wholly identify.

Is she, and the twenty or so young people who follow her in a parade of indistinct portraits, a ghost? Perhaps, or maybe they are simply artifacts of memory, where time has erased the distinguishing details and left us with a vague inconclusive shell that only fleetingly reminds us of someone we know or love. Hamamoto doesn’t offer any straightforward answers, but sunset clouds and rainbows in the sky behind these approximations of expression and personality seem to imply a step beyond strict rationality.

Hamamoto leads down another long white path before returning at the end of the photobook to many of the same visual themes that began the journey. Gauzy curtains obscure people on a balcony, blur fuzzes our view of someone standing in front of a tree, and light dances across water, through hair, and across car seat cushions. She once again plays with various forms of light – dappled, hazy, overbright, cloudy – and blur – soft, fogged, enveloping – mixing various studies of waves, wildflowers, snowy landscapes, and reflective puddles into a lilting flow of elusive attachment.

Beyond the unexpected sections of whiteness, midday ghost has other intriguing design elements that help deliver its message. Hamamoto’s photographs have been arranged across the spreads in various sizes, with each page turn revealing a different combination of image placements. The approach recalls that of Wolfgang Tillmans, where small, medium, large, full bleed, and bordered images all interact in one larger flow. The book also has an exposed binding and a cardboard slipcase instead of a traditional cover, forcing the viewer to remove the interior book before engaging with it, and allowing the book to lie flat when opened. The lack of distinction between cover and interior pages (they’re all printed on the same paper) reinforces the feeling of open-endedness found in the pictures.

As a first photobook from a twenty year-old photographer just starting her artistic career, midday ghost offers plenty of promise and risk taking. Many emerging photographers are seduced by the properties of light and how a camera can capture those transformations, but many fewer can turn that spark of recognition into something more durably personal. Hamamoto’s book is filled with both quiet lyricism and surprising shifts of thinking, reflecting an artistic voice that is starting to exhibit clarity and confidence.

Collector’s POV: Kanade Hamamoto does not appear to have consistent gallery representation at this time. As a result, interested collectors should likely follow up directly with the artist via her website (linked in the sidebar).

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