Constellation Cafe Books : Extended Portrait Studies – Ken Ohara

Page 69, Ken Ohara’s Close Encounters with Photography

“As soon as he received a shipment of ONE from his Tokyo printer in early April 1970, the twenty-eight year old Ken Ohara presented a copy of his project to the New York photographer for whom he was working. After quickly studying the book, Richard Avedon urged his assistant to disregard his normal darkroom chores and take the volume to the offices of John Szarkowski ant the Museum of Modern Art. To expedite the mission, Avedon gave him five dollars to cover the cost for a cab, a gesture that Ohara still recalls with both appreciation and humor. While taxis were Avedon’s normal mode of New York transport, they were for Ohara an unimaginable extravagance. Since the museum was a little more than a mile away, Ohara proceeded on foot and later dutifully returned the money.”

Cover for the book, from an installation by Ohara

I recently was gifted this Ken Ohara’s book for my birthday (still not too late to send in some film or gifts if you want to). I had been thinking about getting the book for some time, its cover is just pure fascination.In the first looks, the make of the book is matt printed on ivory white sheets, softbound. A little bigger than a A4 sheet size in width, its 87 pages thick. Images don’t have any supporting text, they are printed to cover the whole page in precise uniformity.

From the series “ONE”.
ONE consisted more than 500 very close portraits shot by Ohara, presented in a very uniform fashion

Rather than a single project, this project introduces Ohara’s work overall, in sections. Portrait Studies, Contacts, 365, 24 Hours, Grain & With. And the book concludes with a discussion of the philosophy of the work overall. Ohara doesn’t really say much about his work, nor explains why and what. It has been described in many different ways by curators and critiques but to me all his project other than “ONE” remain very personal and actually more emotional than the other. ONE on the other hand is more of a study, a formalist and almost excruciatingly scientific way to look at something.

The body of project as a whole, 365
Too small to see unfortunately. Need to visit a exhibit for this soon šŸ˜¦
One of my fav projects from Ohara
Ohara uses a film camera to shoot self-portraits made up of photos shot every minute for a period of 24 hours. A brilliant idea and its amazing to see how little movements or expressions become heightened in this project.

There are 3 more projects in the book but best I let you explore yourself. Ohara’s work talks not only about the nature of human faces in portraiture but also the idea of existence and identity. There is a lot to be explored in the conformist space by Ohara, which actually opens up a brand new line of idea, something which was not dealt with before. I also think this focus on repetition and space conformity comes as a counter action from Ohara’s mentor Avedon, who too worked on isolation of his subjects.

A great book but I really wish to see his exhibit one day and study all of these images in more detail.

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3 thoughts on “Constellation Cafe Books : Extended Portrait Studies – Ken Ohara

  1. This is my initiation to Ohara’s work. He appears to be a brooding intense personality who is exploring other brooding intense personalities through his work. (This is completely my imagination talking.)

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