top コラムRecommended photobook24 Tsubasa Kawaguchi "Breathless" 川口翼 『心臓』

Recommended photobook

24 Tsubasa Kawaguchi "Breathless" 川口翼

John Sypal

Tsubasa Kawaguchi’s debut photobook Breathless is a gasp of fresh air against the pursuit of technical perfection and labored expressive intent. Winner of the second Fugensha Photo Award, this collection of magenta-tinged scruffy jpegs hits the heart. 


Shot entirely in summer in his hometown in Japan, Kawaguchi, a former student of Shinya Arimoto, tells us in the afterword * that the first of these pictures were done with a malfunctioning digital camera that he acquired by chance. Breathless consists of both those images and ones he took the second summer with a brand-new camera. Any differences in technical capability between his equipment are rightfully muted, if not simply ignored, by his searing vision. 

It’s not the how, it’s the when, what and where. 


Roaming his hometown in the heat, Kawagauchi photographed what he calls “enclaves of memory”, something sensed in empty fields and streets, the summer sky, the summer sea. He found it among sun-soaked flowers, insects, shadows and a woman’s face.  In each there’s slightly melancholic distance- his images often have both a magenta tinge and a tinge of loneliness.  They also possess a quiet mystery and beauty.


A4-sized, Breathless has a glossy, strikingly red cover which loosely envelopes the exposed-spine bound book. The designer, Satoshi Machiguchi, intended the empty space between the binding and the unattached cover to evoke a pump of a heartbeat as the pages are turned. If the slick cover is what first catches your eye, it’s the jagged texture of the book's edges that catch your hands.  To your fingertips this texture feels like "static" in paper form, echoing the pixelated uber-digital-ness of the images. This is what a sensor gone bad must feel like. The pages are cut so that when the book lies open each image reveals a thin red line with a paper-pixel border. 


Many photographers approach digital files as a framework to build upon. Technique, excessive photoshop and other such “enhancements” tend to weigh innocent photos down with excess intent and illustrative, cheap sentiment. Young Kawaguchi on the other hand has the sense- the bravery- to let his images stand on their own as photographs: 


Photography begins with a photograph. Rejecting all forms of expression or description, I want a photograph to simply be a photograph from beginning to end. This is ultimately a matter of purity, and not anything that can be achieved through things like image quality, tonality, theme, or concept.


His desire of “purity” forsakes post-production technique for a photographic, if pixely, naturalism. Kawaguchi say that he longs for a “wild wilderness” of photography- a medium which is freer and more open than it is. 

In his sincerity and heart, viewers are offered a chance to breathe.  




























*Disclosure: I was asked to contribute the English translations for this book.



  • Tsubasa Kawaguchi "Breathless"
  • Publisher: Fugensha, 2023
  • 川口 翼 『心臓』
  • 2023年6月30日発行
  • 造本設計:町口 覚
    デザイン:清水紗良(MATCH and Company Co., Ltd.)
    編集:関根 史
  • 発行人:渡辺 薫
  • 通常版:6,820円(税込)


PCT Members

PCT Membersは、Photo & Culture, Tokyoのウェブ会員制度です。

特典1「Photo & Culture, Tokyo」最新の更新情報や、ニュースなどをお届けメールマガジンのお届け
今後もさらに充実したサービスを拡充予定! PCT Membersに登録する