Contemplating life: Rinko Kawauchi's autobiography of seeing

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter considers how the gaze of the camera can shift our usual patterns of recognition and how photography can unsettle and expand our understanding of self-narrative. The autobiographical register in Rinko Kawauchi’s work is shown through her mode of observing and contemplating the world. Kawauchi has a "highly personal, insatiably hungry form of photographic seeing. Referentiality, truth, and the reproduction of reality have been problematized in both discussions of photography and autobiography. However, many photographers in Japan begin a project with the intent to create a photobook, while in the west more emphasis is placed on wall prints. Kawauchi's approach to self-representation enables us to move past autobiography as the narrative of a singular life and, through its modes of looking, allows us to reflect on "life". The mode of child-like looking at the world that Kawauchi's photographs often invoke is also often accompanied by images of children in her work who invariably appear engrossed in their own looking.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPhotography and ontology
Subtitle of host publicationunsettling images
EditorsDonna West Brett, Natalya Lusty
Place of PublicationNew York ; London
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor and Francis Group
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781351187756, 9781351187749, 9781351187732, 9781351187725
ISBN (Print)9780815374299
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Publication series

NameRoutledge History of Photography


  • photography
  • photobooks
  • autobiography
  • visual culture
  • Japanese photography


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