2008, University of Tokyo Press, 東京大学出版会
Edited : Akishinomiya Fumihito + Yoshiaki Nishino, Art Direction : Kenya Hara


2006, (Out of print) AKAAKA Art Publishing, Inc., (絶版) 赤々舎
Edited : Yoshiaki Nishino, Art Direction : Kenya Hara


2008, University of Tokyo Press, 東京大学出版会
Edited : Yoshiaki Nishino, Art Direction : Kenya Hara

The taxidermic mounts, skeletons and formalin-preserved specimens in the collection of the University Museum of the University of Tokyo may have waned in scientific value, yet remain fascinating objects possessed of a mysterious presence. Using an 8 x10 large-format camera, Ueda photographed these relics of “natural history” against pure black backgrounds to bring out their vivid detail and breathe new life into their stark forms—as only photography can do.

Back to black The dialectics of display
“Over a three-year period from 2005 to 2008, I photographed antique scientific specimens in the collection of the University Museum at the University of Tokyo. One day, Professor Yoshiaki Nishino showed me a wapiti skull in one of the rooms, a pale white form sculpted in the scant daylight of a window. He then informed me that almost all of the specimens were slated to be disposed of, although he himself very strongly believed that even if they’d outlived their usefulness as objects of study, they still held historical, aesthetic and cultural value. He was urging the university to reconsider and reintegrate them in the museum collection, so people might come to appreciate their value once again. Right then and there I knew—as if our meeting were fated—I had to preserve the specimens in photographs. The translucent wapiti skull was so striking I found myself wondering why such beauty existed in the depths of animal flesh, why the skull needed to be so very beautiful. Mystery compounded upon mystery. Up until then the idea of bones had made me uncomfortable, but the beautiful shock of that skull wiped all such fears clean away.
“I started photographing. The more bones I shot, the more acute my wonderment became: why did such beauty exist under the skin, beneath the muscle, behind the red-blooded meat? Why was it necessary to shape such delicacy, then cover it up? It was the same with humans as with other animals—the uncanny eggshell translucence of the bones continued to amaze and mystify me. I tried to make them float up from total darkness. The lighting on the bones had to be just right: too direct and the glare would reflect everywhere. No, in order to set the delicacy of form adrift in the void, the light had to stop on the surface. Nothing more, nothing less, to limn their true shape.
“Another thought also occurred to me: given these animals had once roamed the plains or dwelled deep in the forest, why not pose them as if stealthily peering out from under the trees. The experience was very unnerving. I looked on as two giant lizards performing a leisurely courtship dance among the formalin jars, undeniably alive in death.
“In 2006, thanks to Professor Nishino’s initial contact, Kenya Hara who designed the handsome jacket and Kimi Himeno of Akaaka Art Publishing who took on the project, these photos appeared under the title Chamber of Curiosities. This was followed shortly thereafter by One Hundred Stonewares and Biosophia of Birds, comprising photos of Neolithic utensils also from the University Museum and of rare bird specimens from the Yamashina Institute for Ornithology respectively.
I also wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to Prince Akishino for his gracious support of these publications.

from the “Photographer Interview” section of the FujiFilm homepage (used with permission)

学術的価値は希薄化してしまったものの、オブジェクトとして魅力的な存在感を放っている東京大学総合研究博物館所蔵の剥製や骨格、液浸の標本コレクションを8×10の大型カメラで撮影した写真集『CHAMBER of CURIOSITIES』は2006年に出版された。これらの標本群が漆黒の背景に浮かび、新たな命を得て写真でしか生み出し得ないもう一つの実体となって見る物に迫ってくる。

そしてもう一つカメラを覗きながら想ったことがありました。それは彼らが草原の中で、森の奥の闇の中でひっそりと生きていたころのことです。その姿を私は容易に想像することができました。木の陰からそっとこちらを覗いているかのような、静かな姿です。これはとても不思議な体験でした。液浸標本の中で優雅に踊り、恋をしているかのような二匹の大トカゲの姿を、切ない想いで見つめました。死してまた宿る命というものを否応なく感じてしまいました。生と死の境目への根源的な疑問がふつふつと湧いてくるのでした。こうして2006年秋に『CHAMBER of CURIOSITIES』と名付けられ、西野嘉章氏監修、原研哉氏装丁で、無事本として残すことができました。そして暫く時をおいて、このシリーズは東京大学総合研究博物館の所蔵する石器時代の標本を撮った『ONE HUNDRED STONEWEARS』、山科鳥類研究所の貴重な鳥の標本を撮った『BIOSOPHIA of BIRDS』(この本を作るにあたり、秋篠宮殿下のお力添えがあったことに、深く感謝致します。)として出版されました。

FUJIFILM Home Page Fotonoma「The Photographer Interview 幸福な写真に向かって」より掲載。

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