In her native country the Japanese photographer Rinko Kawauchi (*1972) has become one of the most celebrated photographers of her generation. After appearing in several museum exhibitions and festivals in Europe (among others “Rencontres de la Photographie”, Arles; Fondation Cartier, Paris; Huis Marseille, Amsterdam: Photographers’ Gallery, London) the Metopolitan Museum of Photography in Tokyo held a major exhibition about the artist for May 2012. Also FoMu in Antwerp held a large exhibition of her work in 2014. In 2015, her solo show "ILLUMINANCE" was held at Kunst Haus Wien, Vienna.

Rinko Kawauchi’s work focuses on ordinary things and everyday situations. Her photographs attain their specific quality through her use of cropping and choice of perspective as well as the subtle use of natural light in combination with often virtually transparent colours. Rinko Kawauchi works in series, which, in the form of open narratives, combine poetry and emotion with representations of mortality and occasional melancholy.

Whatever her mood, Rinko Kawauchi says that taking pictures is as natural to her as drinking tea: she seizes upon anything that strikes her; insects, children, animals, scraps of ordinary life, tiny scraps of life that embody – more often than not – the ephemeral. Inexhaustibly, her work constructs a new kind of inventory, the unacknowledged purpose of which is to emphasise the connections between human beings and the natural or animal world. Her subject-matter is, in appearance, banal: a pan with eggs to be fried, worn rope, a child seen from behind, a dead bug and so on. But there is always another dimension. Rinko Kawauchi’s eye feeds off a wealth of everyday images in order to display poetic force – a process which may sound hubristic but actually conducted with characteristically Japanese discretion.

The subject of Rinko Kawauchi’s  work “Aila” (which means “family” in Turkish) is the depiction of the essence of life: animals, plants and people are shown in a sequence assembled by free association, which also includes both birth and death. Rinko Kawauchi’s fascination in fleeting beauty, the subjects of creation and destruction, and life and death are communicated in her images. “From the black ocean comes the appearance of light and waves. It helps you imagine birth. I want imagination in the photographs I take. It’s like a prologue. You wonder, ‘What’s going on?’ You feel something is going to happen.” (Rinko Kawauchi)

Biographical Summary

Rinko Kawauchi was born in Shiga in 1972 and became interested in photography while she was studying at Seian Junior College of Art and Design. As is customary with Japanese photographers she began her career as an artist by publishing her work in her own photography books. In the year 2001 she became famous over night in Japan after the simultaneous publication of the three photography books “Hanako” (named after a disabled girl), “Utatane” (siesta) and “Hanabi” (fireworks). In 2002 she received the prestigious “Kimura Ihei Award” for two of the books. In 2004 she published “Aila” (family), in 2005 “the eyes, the ears” (a book about the senses) and “Cui Cui” (which observes the lives of her grandparents over a period of thirteen years). Further publications by Rinko Kawauchi, which should be mentioned, are the photography books “Every day as a child” accompanying the film “Nobody Knows” by director Kore-Eda, as well as “No War”, a collaboration with Yoshitomo Nara about Afghanistan, her diaries “Rinko Nikki I + II” and “Murmuration” for the Brighton Photo Biennial 2010. Other publications are „Illuminance“, published 2011 by Aperture, New York and “Light and Shadow”.

In 2021, "Illuminance: The Tenth Anniversary Edition" was published by torch press (Jp) and  Aperture (Us).

Kawauchi's work is held in the collections of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, Huis Marseille, Museum for Photography, Amsterdam and Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Tokyo.