2003, Little More Co., Ltd., リトルモア
Design : Kenya Hara, Yukie Inoue

For four years from 1999 to 2002, Ueda shot black-and-white portraits of 39 Japanese authors and intellectuals for the literary journal Issatsu no Hon (One Book at a Time). Unlike his usual precision large-format style, the images collected here show a more delicate touch, another essential facet of Ueda’s artistry.

New York can wait Japanese portraiture
“In the autumn of 1995, I went apartment-hunting in Manhattan with my wife in preparation for moving there and committed to a contract for a nice place we found. We had boarded a plane back to Tokyo, when I looked down at the New York skyline and was suddenly beset by fundamental doubts, What was I thinking to photograph here? I glanced over at my sleeping wife and tried to shake off my last-minute doubts, but my worries kept multiplying. There were still things I hadn’t shot in Japan! Why hadn’t I photographed more Japanese? What was there to shoot in New York? . . . My fretting succeeded in waking my wife, who opened her eyes and asked why I looked so upset. I quickly explained my heartfelt conundrum, and she just said, ‘It’s okay, we can come to New York anytime. Better you do what you have to do now.’
“Upon arriving back to Tokyo, I got in touch with Asahi Shimbun editor Shinji Otsuki, whom I remembered telling me he wanted to put together a volume of Japanese portraits. Otsuki, unfazed by my sudden appeal, told me to wait a while, he had an idea. A few days later he rang up with a happy proposal: How about doing a series in the monthly Issatsu no Hon he now edited? Writer Shotaro Yasuoka was just winding up a serialized novel, so there was a slot opening soon. In fact, why not photograph Yasuoka for my first portrait? And so the series was christened ‘Portrait.’
“On 7 May 1999, I visited Shotaro Yasuoka at his house, thinking from the outset to photograph his whole home environment. He sat on a large comfortable sofa placed in a sedate Japanese-style room. That looked fine as-is, so capturing a totally unexpected image of the novelist—and my first genuineJapanese portrait.
“Another subject who left a striking impression was film director Nagisa Oshima. At the time I took his portrait, he’d been diagnosed with a brain infarction and was already half-paralysed, yet he was beautifully dressed in a kimono—the very image of a Japanese man. He stared straight and sharp into the camera with a gaze I can only describe as ‘proud.’ The man was never known for playing coy, he always strived to convey strength and beauty.
“For the next four years I had short but unforgettable experiences with very impressive persons, and after the series ran its course I imposed upon producer-director Sun Chiapang at Little More to publish the whole lot as a book.”

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

文芸誌の『一冊の本』を舞台に1999年から2002年の4年間にかけて日本の英知ともいうべき39人の作家たちの肖像を限りなく繊細なタッチで捉えたモノクロームのポートレート群。これらの写真をまとめた写真集『ポルトレ』は、2003年に出版された。 大判カメラによる精緻な作風とは異なる、もう一方の上田写真の核心がそこにある。写真家は、ここで「日本人の肖像」に没入する。


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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