Yamamoto is known for her portraits of young woman framed in subdued settings pierced by natural sunlight. With these photos, her interest lies in the universally human figure as organ/vessel concealed beneath the mask each individual subject dons from day to day. Since her work in Estonia in 2009, Yamamoto’s practice has incorporated the unconventional process of visiting countries where verbal communication is a struggle for her, choosing subjects, clothing and locations on arrival and conducting her work by body language, without speaking. This act of photography, a multilayered blending difficult to imagine from the fixed tone of Yamamoto’s works, bears fruit via its accumulated performing, as a collection of fragments unconsciously displayed by the girls.
The title “We are made of Grass, Soil, Trees, and Flowers” adds the word “flowers” to the title of Yamamoto’s 2018 book, indicating the artist’s desire to retain the concept employed in her prior work. For this book, Yamamoto leaves her previous main shooting location of Eastern Europe to present photos taken on a visit to Malawi in Africa, and Hokkaido and Okinawa in Japan. The places she visits and the cumulative sense of belonging in the innate culture, customs, and beliefs of the people who live there, are comprehensively taken on board and applied to her practice. As an extension of Yamamoto’s previous work, these photographs pointing to a new expansion into more intimate viewpoints skillfully convey the photographer’s quiet thrill at witnessing the moment when the gentle, generous light of nature intersects with the unselfconscious figures of the subjects who present themselves.
I have long explored what it is that narrowly persists in the body even after a person is stripped of all their affiliations; what it is that makes that person, that person. While accepting the preciousness of the characteristics and individuality we each possess, I wonder if perhaps upon diving beneath the ground on which we stand, we might find a network of connected roots that transcends all boundaries, as if to trace the very origins of human memory.
–− Ayaka Yamamoto, 2021
Display copy with a small tear to the cover (see photo). Book is otherwise brand new and unread.