Iwao Yamawaki

Set of Bowls


On loan

Buk-Seoul Museum of Art (Seoul, South Korea): Pudong

Iwao Yamawaki 1898–1987
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
Image: 127 × 100 mm
support: 127 × 100 mm
support, secondary: 305 × 205 mm
Presented by Jacqui Brantjes and Daniel Pittack 2012


Set of Bowls is a black and white gelatin silver print by the Japanese photographer Iwao Yamawaki. It is a still life depicting a set of ceramic bowls in descending sizes nestled one inside the other on top of a table-like surface. The camera is positioned at a diagonal, looking corner-to-corner, while the bowls are positioned at a steep raking angle. A light source hits the bowls obliquely casting part of the composition in shadow, while two further shadows of other discreet objects mark the tablecloth in the upper part of the frame. The light creates a heightened contrast, which transforms the objects into an abstract composition of black and white.

Born in Fujita, Nagasaki, Yamawaki studied architecture at the Tokyo School of Arts and after graduating worked as an architect in a construction company. During this time, he took pictures with his 35mm camera to support and document his architectural studies. These images of architectural structures, industrial forms and objects show the influence of German avant-garde photography, as well as Alexander Rodchenko’s writing and practice. In 1931 he had the opportunity to attend the Bauhaus in Dessau, studying under Josef Albers and learning about László Moholy-Nagy’s approach to photography. The raking light, angle of the camera and close focus on the form of a particular object in Set of Bowls shows Yamawaki experimenting with Moholy-Nagy’s techniques. Yamawaki travelled widely in Europe and the Soviet Union, documenting modernist architecture and design. He also wrote essays for Japanese architecture journals illustrated with his own photographs. In October 1932 his photomontage The Blow against the Bauhaus was withdrawn from an exhibition for fear of Nazi attacks.

Further reading
Asahi Camera, January 1937.
Karl Lagerfield (ed.), Iwao Yamawaki, Gottingen 1999.
Gennifer Weisenfeld, Visual Cultures of Japanese Imperialism, Durham 2000.

Simon Baker
February 2011

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