#13/16: Yamamoto

June 6, 2014 § Leave a comment


Sunday, November 7, 2011:

John Wood and I left about 8AM for Amtrack in Providence to greet Yamamoto Masao, his wife Reiko, and his manager Seiko Uyeda. We corresponded with Masao and Reiko with the generous help of Seiko as translator, but this was our first meeting. The three appear at once together and seem to recognize something about us. They are instantly delightful.

On the way back to Cape Cod, Seiko shared a story that Masao told on the train coming in from New York to Providence. For some reason, he had had an encounter with a Master of sorts, a man whose Japanese sword–a Stradivarius of swords, a work of art–meant a great deal to him. He insisted that Masao take it home with him to photograph. Masao was nervous when he told him just to send it back via UPS! Upon his next visit with the Master, and to Masao’s surprise, he told him that the sword’s energy revealed that Masao had a difficult time photographing it. He was correct.
As soon as we crossed the Bourne Bridge, John suggested that we offer the front seat to Masao so he could photograph while we traveled toward Brewster on the old historic Route 6A. He reluctantly agreed and after a short time said that the road was “too beautiful to photograph” and that what he liked revealing in his work were imperfections.

I wanted to show everyone one of my favorite spots where a small bridge crossed an inlet with a strong tide. As I approached Keveney Lane to the left, I saw “Bridge Closed,” but I turned anyway. It was a cold day and on our way down this short road we passed a hooded young man on the left, walking slow and determined. He turned and nodded as if he expected us. Without having mentioned it to Masao, I was surprised that he later mentioned it to me.

I stopped the car in front of the gravel pile blocking the street and before the bridge, then opened my door to find a decomposing tree trunk hollowed on one side. In the center was a lovely ceramic vase with a partly broken rim at the narrowed top. I thought, imperfection! I looked at Masao and he jumped from the car with his camera like he was greeting an old friend. From the driveway on the other side of the car appeared a man who greeted us. He said that he had just placed the vase in the tree trunk, but at the time wasn’t sure why. Then, without missing a beat, the young hooded man we had passed on the way appeared on foot carrying a Japanese sword and explained he was studying Japanese martial arts and that he had been taking that precise walk for two years.

In those brief and lyrical moments, Masao, Reiko, Seiko, John, and I together were witnesses in unison to our own completely uninterrupted attention. Was this a gift brought by a Master? He would likely not have had intended it, because he was just being Yamamoto Masao.


The three Prism book and print sets (Yamamoto Masao, Mitch Dobrowner and Jack Spencer) are a hybrid between the finest offset printing by the Studley Press and a Pam Clark and Travis Becker (Twinrocker Paper) designed handmade paper for the cover. With three different sets of prints, 21st Editions has presented a spectrum of printing processes from offset to platinum (Yamamoto) to silver-contact (Dobrowner) to hand-varnished pigment ink (Spencer). These traditional style monographs are presented with the intention of showing a broad range of the artist’s work with from 65-110 images. Scholarly essays by John Wood (Yamamoto), Dafydd Wood (Dobrowner), and Steven Brown (Spencer) reinforce the importance of the marriage of the word and the image as a primary 21st Editions objective.

From Prism Series Book #3 Jack Spencer, 2011, by Steven Brown

February 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

“When we look at photographs which privilege documentation over imagination, we are seeing seeing. Little room is left us, the viewers, for insight or interpretation. What we’re shown is what we cannot help noticing if our eyes are open. Anyone, for example, can understand a picture of an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The problem with this kind of seeing is that what we observe may have nothing to do with the truth of the matter represented. That’s not to say it has nothing to do with fact. But fact, as we know, is more often the sales pitch of the powerful than a hallmark of the universal. In Spencer’s work, however, truth manifests itself by negation of fact. We see what history can never regain, what the news can never define, what advertisements can never sell.

Seeing, for instance, has very little to do with what we experience in a photograph like Cloud/Tree, where air, water, and land invade the horizon so entirely that one can hardly think of any other word for it than sublime—that sense of the monstrous in the elemental, in the presence of which all human intent withers into triviality. ”

Jack Spencer

From Prism Series Book #3 “Jack Spencer,” 2011, by Steven Brown

February 1, 2012 § 1 Comment

“To think of photography as captured fact is, in some ways, to think of it as the invention of coincidence rather than the intention of the artist. Journalism and documentary rely on serendipitous opportunities. And not surprisingly, many photographers claim the element of luck as a blessing on their process. But Spencer doesn’t buy into the idea of luck-as-process. In a statement linked to his website, he says:

‘I am forced to abandon serendipity to create an altogether new mood that did not exist before. These are constructions that are in gestation. I am moving in a direction where I believe that it is exciting to create something into existence, where before, there was nothing. I no longer have any interest in relying on circumstance to present itself at its convenience (emphasis Spencer’s).'”

Jack Spencer - Dream Figures

Announcing Prism Series Book Number 3: Jack Spencer

September 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

21st Editions is pleased to formally announce Jack Spencer, Prism Series Book  Number 3.

Jack Spencer is as equally fine a painter as an artist of the photographic image. His sensibilities show through in each of the four 16″ x 20″ prints that were personally printed, hand-varnished, and signed by Jack, one of which is offered with each purchase of this, only his second monograph in his decades long career.

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