Freeze frame!

Weekend Glitz | Crystal Wu 23 Apr 2021

Photos have the enchanting ability to freeze a moment in time, waiting to be looked back on one day. This is especially true for Yasuhiro Ogawa, who is showing photos he has taken over the past three decades in The Dreaming.

The Dreaming is Ogawa's first solo exhibition in Hong Kong and presents 20 handmade darkroom prints from his latest photo book, also with the same name.

"This book is a showcase of my lifelong journey since the beginning," explained Ogawa, who started photography in his 20s.

When he turned 50 in 2018, he decided to tidy his negatives at home, and while he remembers some of the moments in which the photos were taken, looking back, they all felt like a dream. "Fifty is the age for looking back at my life," he explained. "Every moment of the journeys may have been visions of dreams - that's what I thought when I tracked down my old archive. And I might be still dreaming."

The book took Ogawa a year to prepare, with six months spent making prints for the photos and another six spent working with the publisher on the final sequence. Its cover shows two children walking through an empty street holding umbrellas. Left untitled, it was taken in Guatemala in 1997.

"I don't remember the moment I took that picture," Ogawa confessed. His memory is so vague he could not recall what exactly he was doing there either. "Probably because I didn't enjoy my Guatemala trip, actually."

As a result, he developed his rolls of films after he went back to Japan, but never made any prints. "So those negatives I took in Guatemala were sleeping for 20 years in one of the boxes in the back of the closet."

The photographer enjoys using both film and digital in his photography, as he believes there are certain elements of photos that only film or only digital can achieve or produce.

"For this project, I shot film just because digital photography didn't exist when I started in 1993," he said. "And my decision to use black and white was due to the influence of Sebastian Salgado's work."

While the photographer has upgraded his camera throughout the years, he has always stuck to his preferred 28mm wide lens and Kodak's Professional Tri-X 400 black-and-white film - with the belief that simple is the best.

This may be why even though the photos were taken throughout three decades and depict different scenes and weathers - such as a snowy day on a train or a desolate path on a dark day - they look coherent.

The prints at the exhibition were all developed by Ogawa himself in the darkroom.

"Doing a darkroom job is fun because I can be myself. I love the solitude in the darkroom - doing a job in complete silence except for the sound of running water for washing print."

While the grainy monochromes might not capture reality as well as colored digitals, these photos capture more than what we see. He said: "My work is not about documenting the world; it is about capturing emotions."

The Dreaming is showing at the Blue Lotus Gallery until May 4.

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