Photobook Review: asterisk – Review by Jesse Freeman

There is a distinctive humility unique to Japanese arts as the philosophical tradition sees the individual as an integral part of the world, each being an extension of the universe. The individual finds himself in nature or in his social duties, a sense of belonging to something larger than himself which has the paradoxical effect of affirming one’s own individualism. Enter Daisuke Morishita’s aptly titled asterisk, a statement with the very symbol that implies an annotation to a larger whole, i.e. his selfless contribution to the medium of photography. The artist modestly states, “…the stance I chose to take was to become translucent. To avoid contaminating my art with my own intent, I tried not to introduce any superfluous ideas. I believe this attitude was essential for giving originality to the pieces I created.”

The photos in the book work exclusively in black & white film ascertained by the darkroom techniques highlighted through extensive dodging and burning. This comes off most notable in the rare appearance of human subjects in asterisk, especially in an earlier photo featuring an anonymous group overlooking an empty horizon. This emptiness becomes perhaps the most consistent theme throughout punctuated at the book’s very beginning with a single leafless stem off-centered to the left, flanked on all sides by a bokeh of nothingness. Similarly, the book ends in a circular fashion featuring what one can make out to be a veranda guardrail slightly off-centered to the right that serves as a leading line to an empty ocean horizon. The form of the composition is none the less the same as nothingness prevails.

In the book, there are few moments of respite with an empty page featuring either an asterisk or text from the photographer himself. The former signifies if nothing else…nothingness, while the latter serves an effect similar to the Stephen Shore’s The Nature of Photographs not only in terms of language but as a primer. Morishita ponders on the interaction between light and objects it falls upon, and sees photography as the most suitable medium to capture this, while later speaking on the various powers that can occur within the frame lines of a photograph. A large number of the photos exhibit this showing simply light hitting objects and the darkness from that action resulting in shadows in the backgrounds of a majority of the shots. It is perhaps best exemplified in a photograph right after one of those moments of respites of text that features two white birds, one perched on a simple wooden structure and the other below it. The upper left third and lower right third are both shrouded in darkness, while the right angled light source illuminates the center of the frame. The interest is in the interaction between the light and the birds as we only physically see two birds yet there are two more birds in flight outside of the frame lines whose shadows suggest more outside of the frame. It as if to say, “This is just but a selection, or annotation if you will of a much larger world…one that I am simply apart of.”

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