Rinko Kawauchi is a Japanese photographer born in Shiga. She worked and lived in Tokyo for many years, but in 2018 she moved to the countryside and the outskirts of the city. Her work is autobiographical and linked to rites and traditions of her culture. Although she likes to photograph her domestic environment, community, and family; the plastic expression of this reality is so subjective that can be perceived in the fog or in the whitish veil that falls over her images.
While cutting out everyday life, I take pictures that express the fragility of life and death in it.”
Kawauchi became interested in photography while studying graphic design at the Seian University of Art and Design. First, she worked in commercial photography for an advertising agency, years later she decided embarking on a career as a fine art photographer, while she continued with some advertising work. Her experience with design has influenced the arrangements and edits of her photo series.
Kawauchi’s photographs have their roots in Shinto (an ethnic religion of Japan), which is based in kami’s adoration, the kami are spirits of nature. According to Shinto everything on earth has a spirit, so nothing is too small or ordinary to not be photographed.
According to the artist, she photographs the “small events glimpsed in passing” conveying a sense of the transient. Her images are parts of series that allow the viewer to juxtapose images in the imagination, thus making the photograph a work of art and allowing a whole to emerge at the end.
Her art has a unique aesthetic and mood, capturing the intimate, poetic and beauty of simple moments. The sublimity of her photographs is enhanced by the use of soft colours and lead us to love of little things and silence building poetry, this explains why her photographs has been described as visual haikus.
She chooses to explore her image creation spontaneously, instead of following a specific theme or concept. She said that she focuses on just shooting everything that attracts her eyes before looking back and thinking about why she was interested in those subjects. Her approach focuses on the details that most of the time go unnoticed by the rest.
Despite very little is known about her personal life, in her photo book Cui Cui she portrayed memories of her family that she has been shooting for over a decade. The photos capture ordinary emotions of life, from the happiness of a childbirth to the heartbreak of a death.
In 2001 she published three photo books: Hanako (a Japanese girl’s name) is an intimate study; Utatane (which means “catnap”) have fragments of everyday life; and Hanabi (which means “firework”) is on a Japanese folk festival.
Other photo books of the artist:
- Aila (2004)
- Murmuration (2010)
- Illuminance (2011)
Her photographs are mostly in 6×6 format, and she mainly uses a Rolleiflex camera. She prefers to work in photo books because they allow the viewer to engage intimately with her images.
In 2002, Rinko Kawauchi received the Kimura Ihei award, and in 2012 the Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society.
She has participated in several solo and collective exhibitions around the world.
When I photograph, I try to follow my instincts, later I analyse why I have photographed it and the image gives me the answer. There is a collaboration, an exchange between me and my work. I understand that it is very difficult to explain, but it is how I work.”
- She often thinks on new ways to see her work, which allows her to continue finding new meanings in her photographs.
- When she was 19, she began making prints of her black-and-white photographs, and only five years later she started printing colour photographs.