Hamaya was so overcome by his new sense of the Japanese spirit that during one of his visits to a Snow Country village he tossed the negatives of his Tokyo photographs, records of his earlier “frivolous and weak photographic life,” into the flames of a New Year’s bonfire. (Thankfully not all was lost; I have a book of Hamaya’s photographs that includes some of the urban scenes.)
The results of Hamaya’s brand of ethnography, however dubious its origins, were astonishing. A world that is now lost forever still lives in his photographs. And it has a stark beauty that is utterly distinctive. In the ice and snow of Niigata prefecture, Hamaya found the style that would make him famous. One of the main themes, apart from rice farming and Shinto rituals, is the snow itself.
On Hiroshi Hamaya’s photography. [via NYRB]