Forever Fresh and Modern — Photographs Taken with a Free and Devoted Mind
It must have been about four years ago that I first encountered the works of Kiyoshi Niiyama, and I still have vivid memories of that day. The very moment that I saw his photographic works, my impression was "Ah! This is how photography should be." That sensational feeling I experienced was something very startling, and had the power to make me return to the starting point of my photographical view.
Kiyoshi Niiyama's works are all characterized by his portrayal of various stories of Mother Nature, taken with a warm gaze full of sympathy for people and in an exquisite balance of light and shade, and accomplished by dexterously carving out the formative beauty and scenes from everyday life which we are apt to overlook.
The people and objects emerging before him and his camera would be fitted into excellent dramas by Kiyoshi Niiyama's magic, in other words, 'the photographic sense and spirit' special to him.
"How photography should be..." First and foremost, photography should be accompanied by the power to perceive the essential quality of the photographic subject together with composition skills for rendering this essential quality into a pictorial work, the effective use of light and shade, the perfect timing for pressing the shutter button, and what's more, a sense of fun. It is only when all these elements are combined ever so dexterously just at the right timing that a photographic work is produced. The absence of even a single one of these elements results in a rather ill-balanced photograph.
Looking closely at Kiyoshi Niiyama's works, we find that every one of his photo cuts is well-balanced. Kiyoshi Niiyama's style, I believe, sets a model example that remains true to the very basics of photography.
Kiyoshi Niiyama did not go out of his way to plan photographing trips to unknown or uncultivated locations. His stance was to mainly take photographs of daily scenes, and to travel a little farther every once in a while. Yet, he was able to discover such wonderful photographic subjects and produce such excellent works, for he had a true understanding of the basics of photography and a fine photographic sense.
"Familiar objects and scenes can be transformed into works of photographic art so very easily!!" Kiyoshi Niiyama's message continues to encourage us photographers living beyond his lifetime. It is almost as if he is admonishing us: "Why don't you come to realize this basic style of taking photographs?"
Nevertheless, today with so many methods of expression appearing one after another in the world of photography, pictures that may lack in balance are surely photographs, too, and those not containing any drama are also recognized as photographic works. Amid such trends, however, I would like to point out the importance of becoming well-acquainted with the basics of photography as can be seen in Kiyoshi Niiyama's works. As long as the basics have been mastered, it might be an interesting experiment to purposely modify the basics to one's own personal taste. In contrast, however, without having any understanding of the basics, one is unable to identify the position of one's photographic works. Not knowing where one's photographic works stand on the map of the photographic world only leads to a great sense of insecurity.
For those of us who love photography, we should bear in mind the significance of studying both the latest expressions and classic expressions as having equal value.
I would also like to emphasize that another of the great charms of Kiyoshi Niiyama lies in the spirit of amateurism with which he consistently worked throughout his career. In other words, he would be totally engrossed when taking his photographs. A state of mind free of anything but the act of taking photographs means a frame of mind remaining uninfluenced by fashion or trends or by evaluations from the photographic circle, and not even counting on income. In my view, it is none other than this free and devoted state of mind of Kiyoshi Niiyama that keeps his photographs from growing outdated or stale, and that makes people admire his works with a pure and honest mind. Indeed, Kiyoshi Niiyama was a born photographer who managed to conduct himself in this manner ever so naturally and easily.