On the final day of a trip to New York City last week I stopped in at Dashwood Books to peruse their excellent selection of photo books from Japan. I picked up a copy of hi mi tsu ki chi by Nishimiya Daisaku which I first heard about here on Little Brown Mushrooms. I also saw a couple of interesting volumes from University of Tokyo Press. What caught my attention about these two books was the design of the covers, full bleed images of items floating on black backgrounds with areas cut out creating a lower level for type. I later found that art direction for these books was provided by Hara Kenya, a well know designer and design philosopher (White, Designing Design) with photography by Ueda Yoshihiko. The subject of each book is museum specimens, one of birds from the Yamashina Institute for Ornithology and one of stone implements from the University of Tokyo Museum.
BIOSOPHIA of BIRDS, the larger of the two volumes 168 A4 (28 x 20.4 cm) pages, contains specimens of birds in various stages of unpacking. Some of the birds are on stands as if ready to be displayed, but most look like they have just been taken from storage, some bound and tagged, some still in their boxes. All are photographed on the same black background.
BIOSOPHIA of BIRDS
spreads from BIOSOPHIA of BIRDS
ONE HUNDRED STONEWARES, closer to square in format (24.2 x 23.4 cm) and a bit thicker at 186 pages, is a collection of stone tools photographed in a similar manner.
ONE HUNDRED STONEWARES
spreads from ONE HUNDRED STONEWARES
Both books were published in 2008 and in trying to find out more about them I came across what seems to be the first in the series, CHAMBER of CURIOSITIES, published two years earlier. Sadly I haven’t seen this one in person because it looks the most interesting. Rather than a typology of a single subject (birds or stone tools) it’s a collection of oddities from bones to butterflies.
CHAMBER of CURIOSITIES
Ueda Yoshihiko from CHAMBER of CURIOSITIES
The books I saw at Dashwood are beautifully produced and priced to match, but if you’re fond of museum collections or typologies they’re worth taking a look at given the chance. Also, to see more images from Ueda Yoshihiko’s other work, go here and here (text in Japanese).