Shōji Ueda (1913-2000), one of the most notable figures in Japanese photography, was born by the sea in Tottori Prefecture. He remained extremely attached to his birthplace, so even when he left his hometown to study at the Oriental School of Photography in Tokyo, he came back after graduating at the age of 19.
After getting back, he opened his own photo studio and used dunes right by his house for the vast majority of his work as a backdrop. And because he spent so much time of his life shooting those closeby dunes, he was dubbed the ‘sedentary adventurer’, or in other words – the seated adventurer. He returned to the dune setting, again and again, photographing his subjects in rain and drought, snow and scorching sun.
Ueda’s photographic works are often called “surrealist” and it’s quite obvious why. He depicts surreal and dreamlike landscapes and often plays with scale, by positioning the photography subjects in the landscape as big movable pieces in a colossal game of chess. And the costumes – the hat and the suit – in a beach setting leaves the taste of something Magrittesque.
While Ueda’s work is playful, it’s still meticulously constructed. His photography is just as much about directorial control as it is about using the sense of space to highlight the human form.
Photography [Courtesy Of Shōji Ueda]