It is from an album of photographs entitled Les rues dj vues published in 1980 that I first came to know Kanendo Watanabe's photographic works.
Watanabe won the prestigious 7th Ihei Kimura Award with the album and elicited the comment "eerily supercharged landscapes" from Kobo Abe, one of the selection committee members. Ever since, Kanendo Watanabe, unwavering in his commitment to his own unique theory of photography, has kept up with his creative work in an exceptionally steady way.
With his Autocord, Minolta's twin-lens reflex camera, slung from his shoulder, Watanabe, on his outings, reportedly keeps on walking for days, some 30 long kilometers a day, without any set destination. He clicks his camera whenever he finds a scene that intrigues him.
Watanabe, the man of roving vision, pays great attention to the sensitized paper he uses in the dark room. He never calls it quits until he finds the results he can be absolutely satisfied with. His subject matters - city spaces, deserted nature, quiet surfaces of water and so forth - are quite ordinary at first sight. When you pore over them, however, you will feel that the scenes in the photographs are stealthily creeping into the depth your consciousness.
In my view, Henri Cartier-Bresson is a genius in capturing a decisive moment. Ihei Kimura, whom Watanabe values most highly, has his charm in capturing scenes just before a decisive moment. The works of Kanendo Watanabe, on the other hand, are, as it were, landscapes after a decisive moment, and we can feel a definite sense of existence in the face of the complete absence of humanity in them. Although Kimura and Watanabe at first glance appear to be at opposing ends, they actually share a common ground in their efforts to capture, as ordinary living citizens, the changing times through the relationships between the self and the other. Watanabe's arbitrary streak also strongly appeals to me. So, I have decided to prints to his most recent ones, in Kahitsukan's collections.
In Kanendo Watanabe, I find a truly rare photographic artist who, in the face of wild overripening and variegation of today's visual arts, has single-mindedly stuck to what may best be described as "pure photographs".
(Director, Kahitsukan - Kyoto Museum of Contemporary Art)
(Translated by Atsuo Tsuruoka)
1947 Born in Tokyo
1969 Graduated from Tokyo College of Photography
1973 Dream in the Darkness, Nikon Salon, Tokyo
1974 Mysterious House or "La Folie d' Elbenon, Shimizu Gallery, Tokyo
1980 Received 7th Kimura Ihei Award
1981 Les rues dj vues, Nikon Salon, Tokyo
1982 Upside Down City, ZEIT-FOTO SALON, Tokyo
1983 Type and pattern, Olympus Gallery, Tokyo
1985 Paris-New York-Tokyo, Tsukuba Museum of Photography `85, Tsukuba City
Dolls 1973-1983(by Shimon Yotsuya), Tsukuba Museum of Photography `85, Tsukuba City
Fragmentary Documents of Jack the Ripper 1973(Photo-Montage), Tsukuba Museum of Photography `85, Tsukuba City
1986 Contemporary Japanese Photographer, (Barcelona, Madrid, Bilbao, Valensia)
1987 YAMATO-TOKYO, G space, Tokyo
1988 YAMATO-Yamato, ZEIT-FOTO SALON, Tokyo
1990 YAMATO-F, Yurakucho Asahi Gallery, Tokyo
Wandering, Photography, City, Past Rays Photo Gallery, Yokohama
1992 L'ATALANTE, Hiranagachobashi Gallery, Tokyo
Showa 66, August, ZEIT-FOTO SALON, Tokyo
1993 YAMATO 1987-1990, Picture Photo Space, Osaka
1994 Till October, ZEIT-FOTO SALON, Tokyo
1996 Drops of June III, ZEIT-FOTO SALON, Tokyo
1998 La presqu'le, Egg Gallery, Tokyo
2000 Island, Ginza 9bidou Gallery, Tokyo
Islands:Violence of the Light, Egg Gallery, Tokyo
2003 Kanendo Watanabe Exhibition, Kahitsukan-Kyoto Museum of Contemporary Art, Kyoto