Yasuomi Hashimura (橋村奉臣 Yasuomi Hashimura, known as HASHI, born 1945 in Ibaraki City, Osaka Japan) is a Japanese contemporary artist working in the medium of photography. In 1968, he emigrated to the United States and rose to prominence as a photographer in New York City. During that time, he was concurrently creating fine art photography, and published several books in 1989. His fine art work contextualizes ideas of memory and displacement and the exploration of time. His photographs become not only about the tangible but also what remains unseen. Throughout a long-running career he has made innovative work through a dedicated work ethic and philosophy. Hashimura has always sought to be original and unique in his artworks. If someone accepts it or understands it right away, he rethinks the work to see if it is too common. He is inspired by the Thomas Edison quote “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
Overcoming many obstacles, he worked long days pursuing his dream. Hashimura understands the energy of positive thinking and believes that if you pursue something hard enough, even if it does not happen right away, one day it will come. He has focused his life on creating original artworks and inventing photographic techniques previously unseen.
"How we perceive photographs is unique to each one of us," Hashimura explains. "As a photographer, it’s my challenge to help people see things in a way they haven’t seen them before, to take the time to think about the things they are constantly rushing by in their everyday lives."
Yasuomi Hashimura was born in Ibaraki City, Osaka, Japan in 1945, during the waning months of World War II. His mother evacuated from the city of Osaka before the firebombing to be with her family in Ibaraki City. Only 16 days before his birth, the firebombing had left the city in ruins. His father died in 1947, just two years after Hashimura was born. Raised alongside two siblings by a single mother, Hashimura’s formative years transpired amid the devastation of post-war Japan. His mother would sell household objects to buy food for her three children and life was very difficult. His father had left him a camera that he would play with even when there was no film. When Hashimura saw the devastation of the city, he thought of the people in the past who had erected so many buildings and lived their lives in a place that was now reduced to dust. It is the respect and desire to preserve the past while looking forward to the future that has informed much of his work, including his Future Déjà Vu series.
When he was eight years old, he opened a box of Glico candy to discover a slip of paper saying he had won a camera with film. His first pictures were of his brother and his friends. He was immediately hooked, so much so that he kept pretending to take photographs with the camera, even though he had run out of film. Taking ‘pretend’ photos became a way to learn about composition and timing. During his high school years he met a teacher, Ryuzo Seikeno, who became a mentor and encouraged him to pursue photography and broaden his worldview. Largely self-taught, Hashimura continued to develop his talents - learning about darkroom chemistry and amassing photographic knowledge, eventually winning the grand prize in his school photography contest.
His stepfather and mother very much wanted Hashimura to stay home in Osaka and help with the family automotive business. He spent 6 months repairing cars and knew that it wasn’t for him. Then he spent one year in school in Tokyo but once again returned home to assist his mother and stepfather. It was this tension between a desire to pursue a larger life dream and an obligation to his family that dominated much of his early years.
He worked briefly in a photography studio, only to be disappointed that lazy plagiarism was preferred over creating original works. This added to his belief that as an artist one must always strive for originality. Over a 6-month period he convinced his mother that he had to leave Japan. During a conversation late at night one evening he told her that she had to let him go even though she so desperately wanted to keep him close. He knew if he stayed he would have the same life that he had always had, and if he left he would have many new world experiences and meet people from other cultures.
In the summer and fall of 1967, Hashimura visited Okinawa, home to a large US military base. A chance encounter with a student from the University of Hawaii opened the door for him to emigrate, and he set sail aboard the Brajiru Maru (Brazil Ship) on May 3, 1968, bound for Hawaii. Hashimura intentionally decided to travel by boat in order to “get a sense of the shape of the earth.”
Even in Hawaii, Hashimura had many obstacles to overcome. He struggled to maintain his Visa and was very close to being expelled from the country. Then he met Francis Haar (1908-1997), a Hungarian photographer who had photographed the Emperor Hirohito of Japan and took photos of Maiko Kyoto. He also photographed Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki and various marine women. Then a professor of Photography at the University of Hawaii, Haar hired Hashimura as his assistant, and helped him to get an extension on his Visa. During this time he attended community college in Honolulu, but preferred life experience to sitting in a classroom.
Hashimura also worked freelance for United Press International and in the George Dean Photography Studio. Long days at additional odd jobs gave him the money to buy his own equipment, including a 4x5 view camera. He worked very hard at three different jobs to earn money and experience. By the end of his three years in Hawaii he was already well respected as a photographer and George Kurisu wanted to make him a partner in the business but Hashimura politely turned it down, knowing that his dream was bigger and he wanted to continue his journey. It was during his time in Hawaii that Hashimura met Eisho Okimura, a buddhist bishop that would influence his thoughts and philosophy related to his work.
“An example, perhaps, is the way in which Hashimura says he will try to get “a feeling of” or “sense about” the subject he is capturing, be it an object, place or person. This parallels the Buddhist concept of “essence”—that which transcends form, space and time. Hence, when the viewer is invited to completely experience his images, one might not only be transported to the experience of the subject as it was hundreds, or even thousands of years in the past but also as it will be far in the future. The totality of the encounter rests not only in understanding what is before us but that which we cannot see as well.”- Marilyn S. Kushner, Ph.D. Curator and Chair of the Prints, Drawing and Photographs Department, Brooklyn Museum, New York City
Moving to Los Angeles in 1971, Hashimura enrolled in night classes at the Art Center College of Design. However, he knew that he wanted to learn at a quicker rate, and soon dropped out of the program. He decided that school would become a hindrance, both financially and creatively. He has always believed that to be an artist it has to come from within. This organic energy is more powerful than just attending classes and doing assignments. After a few months in Los Angeles, he knew he had to move to New York in order to further his goals. At the time you could get a Greyhound bus ticket for $99 for 99 days to travel the country. He journeyed to New York and was promised a job with the James Moore Studio. Excited to finally achieve his goal, he returned to Los Angeles to pack his things. He planned to sell his car on a Monday for covering moving expenses. The Saturday before, his car insurance expired. And that Sunday, while turning into a church parking lot, his car was rear-ended. The other driver also didn’t have insurance and the car was totaled. His plan was delayed as he sought medical care in Japan for an injury related to the accident. Several months later, he returned to the States and purchased another bus ticket for New York City. “I knew no one,” he says. “But I was on my way.”
In New York, Hashimura took a job on the night shift at a color lab. This position allowed him to pursue assistant photographer jobs by day. Work eventually followed with fashion photographer Chris Von Wangenheim. Hashimura was grateful for the job and the experience but knew that fashion photography wasn’t for him and instead he pursued still life jobs, learning quickly and becoming well known.
In July 1974, Hashimura used his savings and a $5,000 loan to open Hashi Studio. Even though he only had a few clients at first, they believed in his work and creativity. Over the ensuing years, he would work with hundreds of high profile clients and Madison Avenue advertising agencies, developing a commercial photography business renowned for his iconic and elegant images. By the early 1980s, he had developed his signature style, “Action Still Life.” Described as 'fluid motion in a forever frozen instant of time,' his work gained considerable attention for his unique ability to bring vividness to liquid photography.
Yasuomi Hashimura rose to prominence through his innovative perspective in the advertising industry. Within an incredibly competitive industry, he excelled at developing a special niche for himself. One of his first major breakthroughs was photographing a Trifari ad for the back cover of Vogue magazine in 1975 with Margaux Hemingway on the cover. The photographer he was working with could not get the lighting and composition correct and Hashimura stepped in, getting the perfect shot.
He used his impeccable eye and timing to develop his own style focused on bringing a painterly perspective to liquid commercial photography. “Action Still Life” were comprised of moments that cannot be perceived by human eyes and only captured by super high-speed strobes that flash at 1/100,000 second or a millionth of a second. His groundbreaking original work “Cheers” showing the exact millisecond that champagne explodes from the bottle was chosen for the 50th anniversary poster of Esquire magazine.
According to Hashimura, “From the perspective of the history of the earth, which is said to be 4.6 billion years, a human life is as short as the moments that the super high-speed strobes used to take “Action Still Life” flashes for. The length of time is very much relative. Regardless of how finely it is captured, each moment is packed with countless dramas and incidents.”
In 1985, his work titled “Rainbow in Space” was created for WFUNA (World Federation of United Nations Associations) as a limited edition art print to accompany the commemorative stamp issue honoring the United Nations University. It was the first time a photograph had been featured and the posters were translated in seven languages. Previous selections for UN limited edition art prints have included such legendary artists as Salvador Dali, Joan Miro, Keith Haring, and Andy Warhol.
He has shot ad campaigns all over the world, including in Paris and Tokyo. His extensive client list includes over five hundred of the world’s top brands, including Coca Cola, Remy Martin, Stuart Weitzman, Gordon’s Gin, Panasonic and countless others. During his career, art directors often sought him out for his ability to render each campaign with his own signature style, while still fulfilling the needs of the client.
Yasuomi Hashimura has been creating still lives for over 40 years. In addition to his ‘action still life’ commercial images, he has created fine art still lives exploring the concepts of time and aging. His expertise lies in using large format 8x10 film cameras to capture color and texture. The photographs are impeccably styled, each object placed with care and awareness of light and scale. He enjoyed working in the studio and felt like he could make the most original work within the still life genre, rather than fashion or portraits, where much of the work begins to look the same.
Utilizing his expert knowledge of color theory and composition, he adds mood and emotion into these scenes. Often working with everyday items such as marbles and glasses, these objects are transformed into mysterious colors and shapes. Something that is present in all of Hashimura’s work is the drive to create something original that viewers haven’t seen before. With his background knowledge of painting and drawing, he sought to push photography further. Favoring spot lighting and dark backgrounds, Hashimura creates an imagined world.
“While his photographs are performances of extreme calculation, his materials are never substitutes for the real thing, and his concept is consistently designed around the object’s own natural tendencies. Like the aesthetic clarity of Japanese cooking Hashi’s ingredients are never disguised; their beauty is in their selection and arrangement, their power in their rawness. In spite of the jungle of electric cord, battery of lights, camera apparatus, and hovering assistants that are the basic equipment of the still life studio, Hashi’s magic is made by his undistracted and complete confidence in what it is."- Belinda Rathbone, Photography Historian
Hashimura’s series Native Americans is the culmination of over half a decade’s worth of work. Between 1983 and 1989, Hashimura traveled to various Native American reservations (primarily to the White Mountain and Navajo tribes) to meet with, live among, and photograph the indigenous population. Hashimura initially had no intention of creating a series of work there; he simply wanted to go and to meet these people he had heard so much about. To do so had been a deeply held longing that Hashimura carried with him since his childhood in Japan. Finding himself based in America by the 1980’s, Hashimura was able to often stay for one or two weeks at a time on these reservations, witnessing both the day-to-day living of the tribespeople, as well as observing their ancient rituals, ceremonies and traditions.
It was during one of these photography shoots in 1982 that his injury from the car accident years before resurfaced. His was unable to hold a camera or get out of bed. He called an old friend from Hawaii, an Eastern Medicine healer, Dr. Inowa who immediately got on a plane to help Hashimura. He performed acupuncture and healed him, allowing him to continue to shoot.
Both document and fine art series, Native Americans contemplates social change, tradition and nature through Hashimura’s unique lens. Hashimura’s subjects are held within a wide, sprawling landscape of reddened rock, a tapestry of sedimentary layers and an expanse of endless blue skies. Upon closer inspection, we see aged, detailed faces with deep lines, not too dissimilar from the mountains all around. Each picture depicts a landscape of change, a literal landscape, a figurative landscape, a political landscape and a psychological landscape. These images present the results of transformation both in the historic long term and in the immediate now.
And this trend unfolds throughout; on one hand we have the immense beauty of the native people in an incredible location, while on the other we are presented with scenes of poverty, upset and harsh living therein. It is Hashimura’s ability to render both of these aspects with the same care and artistic nuance that elevates these images from essential documentary work to the rungs of fine art.
On Burma (Myanmar) is the result of a trip taken by Hashimura and his father-in-law Susumu Akutagawa to Burma (now, Myanmar) in 1987. A veteran of the war in Burma, Akutagawa, together with Hashimura, conceived this journey as something of a requiem to his fellow soldiers at the battle site where they had fought during World War II. Hashimura intimately documented Akutagawa’s journey, laden as it was with often painful memories. “At one point, he (Akutagawa) was digging in the ground and crying out loud as I photographed him,” Hashimura says. “I felt like I was seeing him in action [in the war]. It was like all of his late friends were welcoming him back.”
These works read as a sort of photo essay, a narrative of moments casually pulled from the days spent by Hashimura as he accompanied Akutagawa on his spiritual journey. That atmosphere, that build up, is felt in these works. Hashimura, once again, playing with time in an unusual and unique manner. “Yet what made me happiest of all,” Atugawa mused, “were the eyes of the Burmese middle-aged women... welcoming... the same clear, gentle eyes that had greeted the Japanese troops at the outbreak of the war.” It is this warmth that shines through in Hashimura’s shots.
As with Native Americans, Hashimura has once again has created a unique time capsule of a people and place rarely seen by western audiences. Shot in black and white, depicting often harsh living conditions and with all the signifiers of poverty one would come to expect, On Burma captures a sense of joy and gentleness among its subjects. We see villagers, pupils, monks and farmers all bright and curious at the sight of a camera lens. Perhaps enamored by the technology, perhaps happy that their image will be viewed outside of Burma, thus transporting them, in some small way outside of their current surroundings and its troubled history.
As a conceptual series combining still-life imagery with calligraphic printing techniques, Future Déjà Vu explores how the image can act as a time capsule, tying together artwork and architecture from different centuries. Hashimura has been working on this series since 1987, which now comprises three separate locations: Japan, Rome, and Paris. ''Future Déjà Vu embodies the visual mementos of our age, created with the assumption of entrusting them to a future a thousand years from now,” Hashimura explains. By privileging the raw print materials — rough-edged papers, brushed and distressed emulsions — Future Déjà Vu achieves a patina over present-day images in order to create work displaced in time.
“The result is a multi-media object that is almost three-dimensional and one that is intended to capture the multiple planes of time and space—not only the present, past, and future—but evoking a “Future Déjà Vu” as well, as Hashimura has called it. The imagining of a past from a future yet unlived. As an archeologist uncovers history by digging down into the earth, so too Yasuomi Hashimura digs into time and challenges us to see what is not tangibly there.” - Marilyn Kushner, PHD, Curator of Photography, Brooklyn Museum
Future Déjà Vu: Paris uses the same innovative darkroom painting techniques while focusing on the architecture of the city of lights and its artworks. Hashimura often photographs the ancient sculptures isolated from their museum backgrounds, leaving the viewer with an artifact from the past. In his photograph of August Rodin’s “The Kiss”, the focus in on the middle of the sculpture at close proximity, entrancing the viewer into wondering whether this is sculpture or reality. At the same time, he is presenting the audience with the question of what will happen to this sculpture in the future. Another 100 years from now, will it stay the same, or erode as depicted in the photograph, edges torn and darkened.
“The viewer is called to reconstruct what has been lost to the ravages of time. The poignant still life photograph, ‘Aged Champagne, Reims’, most definitely recalls the elegant still life commercial photography for which Hashimura is so well-known. The bottles are caked with dust that has settled over many years. These bottles are old, but how old? The image is carefully composed and self-contained, bracketed by bottles on each side that are separated from the rest, one facing forward and one facing back. It is clear that Hashimura did not stage this scene but rather recognized its potential when he came upon it. He provides the structure, the viewer completes the image."- Marilyn Kushner, PHD, Curator of Photography, Brooklyn Museum
Future Déjà Vu: Rome focuses on ancient artworks and cityscapes. Hashimura is showing the viewer these artworks from unorthodox angles - blending the calligraphic techniques to create a patina of time past. Hashimura originally drew inspiration for the series from viewing platinum prints and observing the darkened edges that were framing the image. Not content with simply repeating the technique, Hashimura decided to take this idea one step further. He combined his talents in calligraphy, photography and darkroom printing to create images featuring an imagined world. This way, Hashimura turned a simple photograph into a unique artistic object. These artworks have a depth and complexity, inviting the viewer to be torn between observing the abstract elements and contemplating the beauty of the original photographic image.
At times the artworks appear as though they are disappearing from view. This is the case for “Pantheon II”, where the edges of the photograph vanished, replaced by gentle, abstract brushstrokes and chemical splatters. Hashimura is experimenting with tone, pushing the very limits of photography until the ideas of one art form blend into another. The titles feature the approximate date the artwork or architecture pictured was created, followed by the year the photograph was printed. This allows the viewer to ponder the different centuries pictured in one image – what will be the next moment in time that is captured?
''There are traces that endure in our hearts and cannot be erased.” Hashimura muses “There are genes, we have inherited from the past which cannot be forgotten or destroyed even in these fast changing times. We will bequeath these to the next generation and the generation after that. But one thousand years from now, what will remain and what will have been preserved from our present moment? I wonder what you, the viewer, will take away from these works as you stand before them. Perhaps they might trigger your own Future Déjà Vu."
Future Déjà Vu: Japan is a commentary on how culture, people and art change over time. The viewer can see the influence of Hashimura’s Japanese heritage and his drive to preserve history. Here, photography becomes sculpture, architecture becomes document, Japanese Ink-Painting becomes modernized and Hashimura’s own history sits fully revealed for all to see. This location in the series focuses on Zen Buddhist temples and landscapes. The darkness and contrast found in the landscapes often merges perfectly with the abstract lines and shapes created by the calligraphy brushes - becoming part painting and part photograph. There is a nostalgic and harmony in these images. His photographs of cities and people show a moment suspended in time, beguiling the viewer and provoking the question - when was this artifact created?
Hashimura developed his own technique of ‘painting’ in the darkroom by merging calligraphic strokes with darkroom chemicals in order to produce images at once contemporary, and laden with nostalgia. Each photograph becomes a totally unique piece of art, never to be reproduced exactly the same again. By transforming the simple photograph into an object he is creating a new artifact to be carried into the future.
Hashimura writes about the original inspiration for this series: ““When I was in junior high, my best friend showed me a stalactite about ten centimeters long at his house. He later majored in earth sciences in college, and asked me to accompany him to shoot photographs at a limestone cave. It takes sixty years for a stalactite to grow one centimeter. Therefore, a stalactite one-meter long takes six thousand years to form. I recall being struck by the mysteries of time and imagined what the future would look like. A stalactite is accreted one drop at a time. It is a beautiful sight that is made possible by each and every one of those drops, just as the world is created one moment at a time. At the time however, I did not realize how deeply this experience would influence the concept of time in my works.”
Memory Fragments: Tokyo is a reflection on human nature. In a sense, we are all passing through our lives, moving from one place to another, rarely observing, rarely truly looking. Like any astute photographer, Hashimura is an observer, an outsider looking in. Hashimura uses his camera as his own eye, often photographing at waist level without a viewfinder and using his extensive experience with 8x10” film cameras to capture the mood of an overall scene: the colors, the movements, the framing. In a sense the camera becomes him, and the audience is peeking into his individual memories while contemplating the idea of memory within the larger experience of human life.
Many of the images become abstracted versions of reality, inviting the viewer into an imagined world rendered in exacting color. Such is the case with “Mountain Range”, where Hashimura is once again using the magical techniques he is known for to blend photography with painting. This time he isn’t accomplishing it in the darkroom, but rather with his own eye and extensive knowledge of the camera. The photographs of Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden invite the viewer into this imagined dreamland where colors and life is passing by and one can only grasp briefly at the moment.
The photographs capture the uncertainty of memory, how it feels to create a memory, and how it feels to attempt to retrieve it later, only to find that the edges are softening, the details are fading. There is a continual transference happening inside everyone as memories move from the conscious to the unconscious, leaving only traces of the original memory behind. Hashimura shows us these traces, as the photographs reveal how our memories function over time.
Memory Fragments: New York investigates the uncertainty of memory by presenting ephemeral daily moments. Through his work, Yasuomi Hashimura challenges the perception of memories and how they accumulate or disappear over time. He captures the essence of a memory, revealing the unclear and unfocused nature in a wholly original style of photography.
Hashimura challenges the viewer to examine the moments they would simply forget and pass by. Driven by a desire to show the audience something original, he uses camera movement and lens flare to great effect, depicting memories as they are created. The work becomes a cultural commentary on the ability of technology to influence our lives.
When the calculator was invented people no longer needed to remember how to do mental calculations, they began to rely on technology instead. With the rise of digital photography technology to capture perfectly exposed and focused photographs, people no longer need to remember everyday moments. Hashimura relies on his own eye and unique perspective to capture these daily scenes that often become forgotten memories.
As Hashimura states, “How much of the universe does one actually see? Can you recall the last time you walked through a crowd at an airport or mall – the countless numbers of people passing by – did an image of any particular face imprint upon your memory?”
Memory Fragments focuses on the uncatalogued, the forgotten and the unfocused. Human memories are ephemeral, they shift and change and often pass right through, lost to the constant marching of time. These photographs present the viewer with the question – what will be remembered of your daily life?
|2015||- Memory Fragments: Tokyo|
|2009||- Hashigraphy: Rome: Future Déjà Vu|
|2006||- Hashigraphy: Future Déjà Vu|
|2006||- Still Life: A Moment’s Eternity|
|2006||- Hashi: His Life and Work, with text by Wahei Tatematsu|
|1989||- On Burma|
|1989||- American Indian|
|1989||- Still Life|
|2009||“ROME: Future Déjà Vu”, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo|
|2006||“A Moment’s Eternity & Future Déjà Vu",Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Tokyo|
|1989||New York Still Life Art, Seibu Yurakucho Art Forum, Ginza, Tokyo, Japan|
|1985||Mikimoto Gallery, Tokyo|
|1985||United Nations, New York|
|2005||Epson Maxart Day for Photographers, Tokyo and four other cities|
|1998||International Exhibition of Photography & Related Visual Arts, Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, Taiwan|
|1997||International Exhibition of Photography & Related Visual Arts, National Taiwan Arts Education Institute, Taiwan|
|1989||New York 5, Art Directors Club, New York, USA|
|1985||Mikimoto Gallery, Tokyo|
|2015||- Portrait Workshop, Open College, Toyama Prefecture|
|2013||- Workshop, Open College, Yamanshi Prefecture|
|2013||- Workshop, Open College, Hamamatsu Prefecture|
|2013||- Guest Speaker, Housing Clinic - Minami Sanriku|
|2012||- Workshop, International Photographic Passport, Brazil|
|2012||- Lecture, Kyoto University of Art and Design, Japan|
|2012||- Lecture, Nagaoka Institute of Design, Japan|
|2011||- Lecture and Workshops, Tokyo Photographic Art Museum|
|2011||- Lecture, Nagoya University of Arts and Sciences, Japan|
|2011||- Lecture and Exhibition, Japan Photography Art Dealers Society Show|
|2011||- Lecture, Tokyo Polytechnic University|
|2010||- Lecture, Nihon School of Photography and Art|
|2010||- Lecture, Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music|
|2010||- Artist Talk, Tokyo Photographic Academy|
|2006||- Artist Talk, Japan Photo Art College|
|2006||- Artist Talk, Nihon University College of Arts, Department of Photography|