top コラムRecommended photobook23 Yoshihiko Ueda "Always Dream" 上田義彦『いつでも夢を』

Recommended photobook

23 Yoshihiko Ueda "Always Dream"

John Sypal

Yoshihiko Ueda’s “Always Dream” is comprised of photographs taken over twenty years of his travel to China. The result is 584 pages of the rich, subtle beauty which Ueda is so well known for.


In his afterword, Ueda refers to these trips to China as an “extravagant journey of the heart”. While these journeys were made under commission by the beverage company Suntory for their Oolong tea ad campaigns, Ueda’s photographs (and book) come across as not a commercial endeavor but a dreamy travelogue.  


Primarily using a 8x10 view camera, Ueda visits included Shanghai, Shenyang, Guilin and Dalian, where he worked with local models, dancers, and actresses. 

The stunning images resulting from his travels- both pre-planned large-format Suntory shoots and, with his Leica, serendipitous encounters on the streets- possess an austere elegance. Looking closely at the images you realize that there is nothing wasted- and yet, somehow, each image retains an immediacy that the average commercial photographer would pave over with technique. 


Ueda’s technique is one of clarity- there is no tricky or clever camerawork at play. The camera is often set dead ahead. The stage is set- but the people within are allowed to be themselves. Through this clarity shines a quiet, natural beauty. 


Early in the book (1994), there is an image of three women caught mid-leap, each with a large blue balloon in hand.  Turning the page, they reappear, from the same angle, but in slightly different positions. The same holds true for the following page. Their mid-air dance continues across ten two-page spreads. Ten 8x10 sheets of film. Ten elegant and seemingly identical leaps strung together. 

Surely the practical, art-director approach would be to choose one image for publication. (For some reason, editors usually don’t like too much of a good thing.)  However, Ueda’s inclusion of ten such photos- and similarly repetitive situations- charges the book with a sense of rhythm and movement. 


Speaking of movement- as a travelogue, this book delivers.  The vast, hazy swaths of China snapped from moving trains are poetic in their beauty. Each has the hum of a calm joy- something inherent in Ueda's snapshots- and, as the years pass through the book, changes in China’s landscape and society are quietly illustrated.



This summer, a large exhibition of prints from Always Dream was held at Gallery on the Hill in Daikanyama. It was there that I had the pleasure of getting to meet Ueda for the first time. Collected and kind, he thoughtfully chatted about the work and the prints. I learned that, from the massive color C-prints to the fiber-based black and white 11x14s, he printed every single one himself in his darkroom in Hayama. One aspect that caught my eye immediately was the way the smaller (11x14) prints, both color and black and white, were displayed.  Normally, galleries and photographers go to lengths to ensure flatness of prints- but not Ueda. He had his prints attached to framed matboards in a way that allowed the natural wave and curl of the paper to appear. 



I mentioned how much I enjoyed this sort of celebration of the darkroom. His warm reply was that he wanted young people, so used to images on screens, to experience and appreciate photographs as physical objects.


He then added one thing I always love hearing photographers say: "I don’t think it’s a photograph until it's a print".


Back to the book- it’s getting to be a rare luxury to hold such a hefty new photobook like this. It’s 584 pages! The printing is faithful to Ueda’s color palette and tonal range. The book concludes with a thoughtful reflection by Ueda on his Suntory campaign travels (text in Japanese, English, and Chinese). To top it off, it is beautifully bound in a jade-colored satin with a Chinese brocade. 


As with all of his work, Ueda's deft capability in balancing a sense of naturalness with refined craftsmanship is transfixing. 

Add to this his joy of travel and the passage of time allows China, in these pages, to appear as if a dream.






















この本は素晴らしい旅行記です。 走っている古い列車の窓から切り取られた、広大で霞がかった中国の風景は、詩的な美しさを放っています。それぞれの写真に、上田さんのスナップに内在する穏やかな喜びの響きがあり、年を追うごとに中国の風景や社会の変化が静かに描かれています。



この夏、「代官山gallery ON THE HILL」で『いつでも夢を』の大規模な展覧会が開催されました。私はそこで初めて上田さんに会うことができました。物静かで親切な彼は、作品や版画について丁寧に話してくれました。


展示されていた巨大なカラーCプリントからファイバーベースのモノクロ11×14インチ(大四切)まで、葉山の暗室ですべて上田さんがプリントしていることを知りました。私がすぐに目を奪われたのは、カラーもモノクロも小さいプリント(11×14インチ)の展示方法でした。 通常、ギャラリストや写真家は、プリントの平面性を確保するため(フラットニング)に手間をかけるものですが、上田さんは違いました。彼はプリントを額装された台紙に貼り付け、紙の自然なウェーブとカールが現れるようにしたのです。












  • 上田義彦『いつでも夢を』
  • 発行元:赤々舎・Jiazazhi
  • 発行月:2023年8月
  • 仕様:257mm×182mm、584ページ、布張りハードカバー
  • ブックデザイン:葛西薫、中本陽子
  • 価格:13,000円(税別)


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