(Japan 1943 – )
20.1 x 30.0 cm image; 30.1 x 40.0 cm sheet
Since the 1970s, Japanese photographer Tomio Seike has produced small format, hand printed images. Working slowly and methodically, he spends a number of years on a single series, producing only 4-5 images a year. Seike uses natural or pre-existing light and refuses to use a tripod. His photographs are not staged or calculated but chanced upon. He documents transient and fleeting moments that are at risk of passing by unnoticed.
‘Untitled’ was taken in Paris yet there is nothing in the image that suggests this. Seike’s subject, a woman positioned slightly off-centre, stands on a street at night. Shown in profile, she is caught mid gesture. Her head is tipped back as her hands cover her mouth. She could be laughing or in shock. The photograph has a very shallow depth of field and is out of focus. The outline of the woman bleeds into the background and the streetlights behind her become glowing orbs that float in a dark and indeterminate landscape. Together with their reflections on the wet ground, they turn the otherwise featureless street into an ambiguous and abstract space.
The blurred background complicates the photograph’s perspective. While the streetlights delineate a vanishing point, the soft focus obscures a clear reading of the image’s setting and compositional structure. The woman, the only legible form in the image, appears as if superimposed on top of a flat, abstract surface.