top コラムRecommended photobook26 Motohiko Hasui 蓮井元彦『VIATOR / SWELL』

Recommended photobook

26 Motohiko Hasui 蓮井元彦『VIATOR / SWELL』

John Sypal

This A5 sized softcover book collects work that Motohiko Hasui exhibited simultaneously between two Tokyo galleries in early 2023.  

In the Swell was shown at CANDLE CAFÉ & Laboratory in Shimokitazawa while Viator was held at Gallery KTO, a small space tucked away behind Omotesando Hills.

For one reason or another I was only able to visit the KTO show. Admittedly, prior to this exhibition I hadn’t heard the term “Viator” before. The dictionary notes that it is a less-used term for traveler, or wayfarer.


We humans are wayfarers- we weave in and out of each other’s lives, with everyone threaded along their own timeline and path, all proceeding to the same silent destination. This unalterable fact is something which Hasui ponders in his statement in the book:


I thought about viators. Afraid because we don’t know where we are going. It would be so easy to know our purpose and meaning. However, that’s not possible. For we can’t even know what one second in the future holds for us. That is why we worry and struggle with our remaining time. We cannot start over. The journey becomes a toil, life becomes a toil. We are all like viators.


The sense of resignation in these words is not of defeat but perhaps acceptance.  


His monochromatic views of the city have a tint of melancholy but in diaristic snaps of family events a personal concern is clarified. Bringing along his camera to the hospital, Hasui’s mother makes a few appearances in the book. In one picture she’s at what looks like a hospital cafeteria. In another she is at a table surrounded by loved ones after dinner. In the gallery he said quietly that she was dealing with a serious illness. He understandably left out the details- but the photographs reveal his concern for her, as well as a quiet realization of the inescapable, incomprehensible transience of our existence.


We toil along- What can anyone do?


Well, a camera can help negate- or at least subvert- the flow of time, letting us hold on a little longer.  


So, with his usual thoughtful distance and open, mysterious sense of beauty, Hasui focused his camera on his immediate surroundings- on life, on the city, on people- nameless faceless strangers and loved ones- and along empty streets and condemned corridors. Interspersed between the greys of thanatos are flashes of life- the eros of flowers and glistening, youthful skin.  The seeming opposites- wet flesh and concrete- intimacy and solitude- of time passing and there printed on the page- create a hum that heightens the poetic clarity of his pictures.  


And yet, like a good poem and even the photographer himself, Hasui’s photographs never say too much. In this book, there is room for the photographer, the subjects and moments, the viewer- and perhaps most importantly respect for the mystery of our time here.


Note: Tucked into the back of each book is a (reproduction) color snapshot of a young Hasui with his mother- and plastic Ultraman monster figure- the sort of “we were here” photo anyone might have in their family albums.  After pages of monochromatic wanderings, the colorful, banal familiarity of this typical family snapshot reminds us that at its deepest level, photography is desire to hold on to a slice of our time here, together.



リブロアルテから発売された写真集『VIATOR / SWELL』は2023年初頭、蓮井元彦さんが東京の2つのギャラリーで同時に展示した作品をまとめた、A5サイズのソフトカバー本です。


写真展「In the Swell」は下北沢のCANDLE CAFÉ & Laboratoryにて、「ウィアートルのように(「Viator」)」は表参道ヒルズの裏手にひっそりと佇む小さなGallery KTOで展示されました。


私はGallery KTOの写真展しか行くことができなかったのですが、この展覧会を見るまで「Viator」という言葉を聞いたことはありませんでした。辞書を引くと「旅行者」「道楽者」を意味するものの、あまり使われない言葉だと書いてありました。





























  • Motohiko Hasui "VIATOR / SWELL"
  • Publication: 28th January 2023
    Publisher: LibroArte
    Book design: Koichi Ino
    Binding: Soft cover
    Photographs: 60 Black and white
    Edition: 200
  • 蓮井元彦写真集『VIATOR / SWELL』
  • 発行:リブロアルテ
  • 発行日:2023年1月28日
  • 仕様:210×148mm、80ページ、並製本、200部
  • デザイン:伊野耕一
  • 価格:3,300円(税込)


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