Kansuke Yamamoto was born in Aichi in 1914 and died in 1987. He studied French Literature Department at Meiji University where he began writing poetry in 1930. A year later, he took on producing photographs with the goal of “practicing Surrealism in photography.” That same year, he established the photographers’ group “Dokuritsu Shashin Kenkyukai” (Independent Photography Research Association) with Mitsuya Okonogi and others in Nagoya and began searching for new photographic expressions. Inspired by the 1937 exhibition “Kaigai Chogenjitsushugi Sakuhinten” (Exhibition of Overseas Surrealist Works), he founded the Surrealist poetry journal Yoru no Funsui (the Night’s Fountain), which ceased publication after the fourth volume in 1939 due to police censorship. In 1938, he also founded the photographers’ group “Seidosha” (Blue Admiration Society) with Motoo Yoshitake and others and began publishing the newsletter Carnet Bleu. He also participated in the “Nagoya Photo Avant-Garde,” which resulted from the photographers of the “Nagoya Avant-Garde Club,” formed by Yoshio Shimozato and Chiryu Yamanaka, who went independent, (The “Nagoya Photo Avant-Garde” dissolved in 1941 after changing its name to “Nagoya Shashin Bunka Kyokai” (Nagoya Photography Culture Association)). Yamamoto became a member of the avant-garde poets’ group “VOU” organized by Katsue Kitasono and contributed poetry and visual works to the group’s journal. In 1947, Yamamoto founded the avant-garde photographers’ group “VIVI” with Keiichiro Goto, Minayoshi Takada and Yoshifumi Hattori. In 1949, he became a member of the photography section of “Bijutsu Bunka Kyokai” (Fine Art and Culture Association).
Between the early 1930s and 1980s, Yamamoto created avant-garde photographic works that manifested his sharp eye for social criticism and a unique poetic sensibility. He was one of the leading figures in Surrealistic photography in Japan. He used a variety of methods, including collage and photomontage. His subjects ranged from objects arranged in extraordinary ways and detailed close-ups of various materials. Eventually he created works in a wide range of media including paintings, sculptures and serial theatrical photographs as well as experimental color photographs.
In opposition to documentary or photojournalism, which pursue to document the moment of reality as it is, Yamamoto’s photographs were made to explore the marginal sphere of our consciousness and landscapes of dream. His fantastic images were often composed with collage, photomontage and overlay photographs. In these photographs, Yamamoto attempted to alter the meaning and effect of the image by using his trimming technique, emphasizing or blurring the boundary of the shape.
His exhibitions include “Surrealist Yamamoto Kansuke,” Tokyo Station Gallery, Tokyo (2001); a duo exhibition, “Japan’s Modern Divide: The Photographs of Hiroshi Hamaya and Kansuke Yamamoto” held at The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, Los Angeles (2013).
His works are included in the Permanent Collections of The Nagoya City Art Museum, The Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, The Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.