I first became aware of Yoshihiko Ueda after stumbling upon a cover of his photography book, Quinault (1993). I was instantly struck by its dark, ethereal feel — dusky and liminal. I felt like I was traveling undaunted through a mysterious patch of forest, or an unexplored segment of my own unconscious.
As it turns out, Quinault is, in fact, an exploration of the spiritual nature of the forest:
“I do believe I photographed the forest as a ‘force,’ something completely different than merely shooting scenery. Or to put it rather strangely, I seem to have been taking portraits of trees. A year later the book was published under the title Quinault, the Native American name for that wooded sanctum.”
– Yoshihiko Ueda, Photographer Interview by FujiFilm
Like Quinalt, Ueda’s portfolio is a trove of wonderful, surreal imagery. His images have a quiet pensiveness imbued in their composition, along with a subtle exploration of contrast between negative space and form.
Let’s take a look at 4 images from his portfolio:
Appreciate the use of blur on the foreground, a technique which is often associated with action or movement. In this photo, the blurred shrubs shift attention towards the calm vastness of the ocean in the background, as it meets with the sky horizon line.
Appreciate the gestalt, or the wholeness, of the image. Form and emptiness appear to meet at the edges demarcated by the robust tree trunk to the right. The resulting illusion reminds me of a goblet, filled with the lushness of nature.
There is an abstract sort of genius at play in this photo. Initially, I thought: “It’s hard to tell if Ueda captured a structure or a pavement”. Turns out that it’s neither – Ueda created the 68th Street series out of paper! Therein lies the beauty of this image: the interplay between shadow and light, sharp contours and diffuse softness emphasizes a realm of form liminal in nature.
Refined beauty and its contours are emphasized in this elegant shot from Noriake by Ueda. The contrast between the luxurious golden edge against the stark dark background is reminiscent of Itō Jakuchū’s signature outlines set against black.
Yoshihiko Ueda (b. 1957) is a photographer and professor of graphic design at Tama Art University. You can find his portfolio at yoshihikoueda.com.