In the Flap of a Bird’s Wing, Water Dries Up
A young photographer working in Japan, Eriko Masaoka came under critical interest and acclaim after she won First Prize at the 2016 Higashikawa International Photo Festival and the publication of a portfolio, In the Flap of a Bird’s Wing, Water Dries Up. A marking characteristic of the way she talks about her work is her sense of discipline, perhaps most obviously noticeable from the fact that she now only shoots on black and white film, which she finds helps her remove any superfluous (or ‘impure’) aspects of a scene. As Masaoka discussed in an interview conducted earlier this month, she develops her photographs in a darkroom set up in her Nara home, and considers herself a perfectionist in this regard: she starts off by running samples on small portions of each negative to get an idea of the broader photograph, and often develops up to twenty versions of the same negative.
This discipline differs, however, when it comes to taking pictures, which she tends to do instinctually rather than methodically. Declining to align her work with any Japanese school of photography —the notion seems alien to her— she recounts how her photography teacher would encourage students to shoot impulsively, erratically, until something artistic started to emerge. ‘Anyone with a decent camera and a basic knowledge of the rules can take good photographs’, Masaoka declares, ‘but it’s the mistakes that make a style.’