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photo-eye Book Reviews: The Dancing Night

The Dancing Night,Photographs by Yasuwo Tsuji
Published by Tosei-Sha, 2010.


The Dancing Night
Reviewed by John Mathews
YASUWO TSUJI The Dancing Night
Photographs by Yasuwo Tsuji
Tosei-Sha, 2010. Hardbound. 96pp.,
57 black & white illustrations, 8x10-1/2."

The Dancing Night is made up of a series of dour, grainy, black and white cityscapes that are all shot at night. A majority of the images feature a range of excruciatingly mundane subject matter such as weeds, trash, leaves and asphalt. These micro urban terrain shots use very low or completely ground level angles, as if the photographer is literally crawling through the underbrush and city streets. There is an overbearingly dark atmosphere to these photographs that makes them difficult to engage with.

The Dancing Night, by Yasuwo Tsuji. Published by Tosei-Sha, 2010.

Scattered in between these ground level cityscapes are impromptu shots of lone figures that wander through desolate locations such as empty fairgrounds and stores. The hand held, shoot from the hip feel of these images creates a feeling that the photographer is stalking random people as he vainly attempts to find a coherent subject to latch onto. The fact that these figurative shots are predominantly taken from behind and never show any facial features also contributes to an atmosphere of detached desire and voyeurism. This ploy of isolating human forms is also evident in a small number of more intimate shots that feature a high-heeled shoe, a thrust out tongue and a nipple being caressed. These anonymous and sexualised images represent a sharp contrast to the stark and withdrawn cityscapes and add to the mood of underlying yearning within the book.

The Dancing Night, by Yasuwo Tsuji. Published by Tosei-Sha, 2010.

The Dancing Night, by Yasuwo Tsuji. Published by Tosei-Sha, 2010.

Like an imaginary detective novel The Dancing Night tries to instill a sense of dark mystery and urban isolation. It is as if the protagonist of this particular story is struggling in and out of consciousness and trying to claw their way home after some fracas or attempting to flee melancholy by plodding through the city with a disconnected air of abandonment. However the visual clues within this aimless and oppressive journey have a druggy haze to them that leaves the viewer disorientated. Overall the book feels like a meandering, disengaged, aloof and abstract nocturnal sketch.—John Mathews

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John Mathews is an artist and curator from Belfast, Northern Ireland.