Japanese, born 1957
Yamamoto Masao is inspired by the Japanese philosophy of Zen, and the belief that meditation and the pursuit of beauty play an essential role in the development of human beings. Yamamoto’s philosophical and spiritual roots contribute to his distinctive photographic style, in which the ordinary is revealed as something extraordinary.
The artist’s newest series Bonsai focuses on the traditional Japanese art of cultivating miniature ornamental trees or shrubs. Yamamoto Masao has always had an intrinsic interest in bonsai, and the project materialized when he had the opportunity to meet Minoru Akiyama, one of the most highly revered bonsai artists in Japan, with whom he has been collaborating since 2017. Of the work and bonsai, Yamamoto comments “Its life, sustained inside a small pot, with the smallest amount of soil, both embraces tranquility of life and agitation of death. Its existence, so powerful, distinguished, and radiating, makes it worthy of marvel. While a bonsai mimics nature, it is not left untamed in the wild. Bonsai is a creation born out of a playful collaboration between nature and people. It’s purpose can be perceived as one of metaphysical ideology… The world of bonsai is similar to that of the world of haiku and waka, as it is built on minimal elements alone. Furthermore, I’ve always felt that photography and haiku are very similar methods of expression.“
Yamamoto’s small-scale photographs, from his early series A Box of Ku and Nakazora, are visual haikus that can be displayed as a collection of harmonious objects, or stand alone as individual images. The prints are meditative objects, each image a trigger that encourages the viewer to draw on their own memories and subconscious. While the images are simple and observational, their suggestive nature is what gives them power.
In his series, KAWA=FLOW, explores “the world where we are and the world where we go in the future.” The images in this series are a reflection on nature and the relationship between the world and self. Evocative of harmony and contentment, they reflect Yamamoto’s philosophy that humility and respect for the universe occurs when uncovering quietude in oneself, a process attained only through nature.
Yamamoto’s photographs and installations have been exhibited at numerous international institutions, including the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; the George Eastman House, Rochester; the Carrousel du Louvre, Paris; the Galerie de Moderne, Munich; the Centro per l’Arte Contemporanea, Rome; and the Galeria d’Arte Moderna di Bologna. Yamamoto’s photographs are included in the permanent collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the International Center of Photography, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and the Sir Elton John Collection, among others. His monographs include Tori (Radius Books, 2016); Fujsan (Nazraeli Press, 2008); é (Nazraeli Press, 2005); Omizuao (Nazraeli Press, 2003); Nakazora (Nazraeli Press, 2001); and A Box of Ku (Nazraeli Press, 1998).