In his first photobook Dew Dew, Dew Its – published by Asian Man Records in 2012 – Japanese-born photographer Hiro Tanaka not only presents a striking first-hand account of what it means to travel across the US with a variety of hardcore and punk bands from show to show but also an intelligent reflection on the American (social and artistic) landscape. Open the book at any page and it will become clear how skillfully he managed to record the heterogeneous realities that make up the everyday life of a band on tour: whether being on stage or among a crowd of fans capturing the chaotic and unpredictable experience of live concerts and backyard parties or sitting on the tour bus while carefully portraying the quiet atmosphere of the morning after – Tanaka is always in close proximity to his subjects.
For those nightly and energy driven moments he makes frequent use of a flash not simply to avoid blur but first and foremost in order to intensify the action’s visual quality so drastically as if to make up for the photograph’s inability to stimulate other senses than our visual perception. The same holds true for his interior shots of a kebab shop, bars, diners and junk food which exhibit the wittingly amateurish aesthetic also to be found in Stephen Shore’s American Surfaces. For the many other well composed landscape photographs – e.g. the one showing a Coca-Cola sign and utility poles next to a deserted road somewhere in a typical American farmland (taken by day and without apparent use of a flash) – , Tanaka on the contrary seems to have been inspired most directly by prominent photographers such as Lee Friedlander and Robert Frank. Thanks to his intelligent and flexible choice of working methods he consistently manages to convincingly communicate through his own photographs the immediate experience of the individual situations captured.
Dew Dew, Dew Its further impresses because of the editorial effort put into it. While each photograph individually might suggest a particular reading, they create other ironic or humorous commentaries on various aspects of the American lifestyle when juxtaposed on a double page. However, Tanaka never goes so far as to fully condemn all of what he portrays. In the end, for now, he is a part of this lifestyle as well. But as his photographic work shows, he never lost his critical eye in the process. His open-mindedness will without doubt help him to further create photographs worth noting, since his sheer endless curiosity is paired also with an unbounded ambition.
(Text by Jan-Frederik Rust: Art Historian)