Colour Photographs by Daisuke Yokota

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Daisuke Yokota, Colour Photographs, foil-stamped front cover, 2015

The work of young Japanese photographer Daisuke Yokota has become something of a phenomenon in the past few years. Not least discussed is the high quantity, fast paced nature of his production. Restless and intense, the sheer amount of work and books he has produced in just a few short years has earnt him a lot of comparisons to the relentless production of Daido Moriyama. Echoing the trademark “are-bure-bokeh” (rough, blurry, out-of-focus) aesthetic of the Japanese Provoke generation of the late 1960’s, of which Moriyama was a key part, Yokota’s work similarly has a rough, process-based and chaotic approach. For Yokota, the photobook is an experience; the basis for a performance and the grounds for experimentation: he burns pictures, destroys them with acid in front of audiences and erodes their emulsion with boiling water.

Contemporary photography has found a value in his photobooks as reactionary, analogue objects in a digital image-saturated culture, with many of them selling out fast and becoming highly collectible items. From early self-publishing ventures such as the black-and-white Xeroxed zine Back Yard, to later collaborations with publishing houses of varying size such as AkinaBooks, ArtBeat and Kominek, Yokota has covered a lot of ground in his early career.

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Daisuke Yokota, Colour Photographs, inside pages, 2015

As we’ve watched the publications of Yokota’s work stack up, we’ve also witnessed his style develop. His works have become increasingly less figurative in favour of various approaches to abstraction. Where once we could make out trees and figures, moons and rooms, now we see a turn towards the materiality of the photograph; its surface and, most importantly, its destruction. Earlier this year, a book called Abstracts by ADAD Books surveyed the work of five artists working in photographic abstraction and gave us our first taste of Yokota’s abstract colour works. Now, he’s pushed on once again and released Color Photographs as the first publication of his colour work.

Having been a photographer who takes snapshots (often thousands of them at any given time), Yokota endeavoured to embark upon a project in which he would not take pictures at all. Instead, he became increasingly interested in the chemical reactions photographic film has to heat and water. By layering large format films on top of each other and exposing them to heat, he was able to watch how boiling water eroded the emulsion of the images and crystallised, creating an endless number of abstract patterns. In scanning the results instead of photographing them, he has been able to capture minute details of the process that may have been missed with a camera. These new works are aptly described as “liquescent” in the publishers’ statement: they appear to ooze and drip as paintings, and they mesmerise, like psychedelic images of the cosmos.

Where other books by Yokota have placed an emphasis on the tactile, handmade and object-based approach, Color Photographs has a refined glossiness that shouldn’t be overlooked. This is a refreshingly simple book with an understated silver cover and a straightforward edit of pictures (all the same size from the first page to the last).

Joanna Cresswell

The book can be purchased from The Photographers’ Gallery via our online store.

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