Among the photographs that were the ultimate ambition of my efforts as a young photographer, I remember an image of Harry Callahan, tracing with a few blades of grass an indecipherable calligraphy on immaculate snow. It was a question of minimalism and purity.
The reading of Tanizaki’s essay, In Praise of Shadows, and then the trip to Japan, would durably shift the stakes of this simple obsession.
Certainly, the analogy between the camera obscura and the background of the Japanese house, where Tanizaki describes unreal reflections like a dream produced by the extreme clarity of the distant garden, brought photography and Japan closer together in an aesthetic for which beauty is not a substance in itself, nothing but a drawing of shadows.
But the exile of the initiatory journey and my status as a gaijin, as a foreigner, were going to make me understand that I was not summoned to celebrate the archetypes dear to Japanese culture, neither there nor elsewhere, but to occupy the more modest place of the passer-by enjoying the color of light, the grain of materials, the lightness of the air, and their unexpected.
The poetry of the images that presented themselves to me, while being neither emotional nor meaningful, asserted the superiority of its presence over any attempt to make photography a writing, or even a rhetoric, reasonable.
This pure, irreducible pleasure is still what obsesses me today.
– Pierre Olivier Deschamps