Thursday, 17 November 2011

Hisaji Hara

Often the most interesting photographers are those who have a single-minded obsession with one subject, relentlessly exploring it and pushing themselves within certain parameters. Hisaji Hara is one such photographer who has created a beautiful series of photographs that painstakingly recreate the paintings of Balthus, the revered Polish-French painter who died in 2008.
Hara's work, until recently rarely seen outside Japan, was one of the gems at this year's revamped Paris Photo fair. Remaining faithful to Balthus's original compositions, Hara's careful casting and beautifully lit modern reinterpretations of the settings make for a really unique series of photographs. The photographs are initially disconcerting, appearing vintage with their impeccable, cinematic lighting and sepia tones, but the modern flourishes make the viewer look again. Below are a couple of Balthus's paintings alongside Hara's photograph for comparison.
At present Hara seems uninterested in photographing outside of his obsession, but surely its only a matter of time before a forward-thinking fashion brand or magazine collaborates with him using his unique approach to create something special.
Whilst paintings have unquestionably influenced photographers since the medium's first days, its rare for a photographer to dedicate himself solely to a project this reverential. Guido Mocafico notably produced a stunning series of still life works - Nature Morte - which were exhibited seamlessly alongside Old Masters at the Bernheimer gallery in London in 2008. But Hara seems to be attempting something even more ambitious, almost trying to become Balthus with his camera. In fact in the final image shown here, he poses as the great painter in a self portrait homage.

Portrait of Therese, 1956 by Balthus

Le Salon I (1941-43) by Balthus

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