Collection Favorites: Hiromu Kira

July 12, 2010

Recently we surveyed our Graphics Department for some of their favorite works in LACMA’s permanent collection. This week we turn our eyes to the Conservation staff for their picks.

Hiromu Kira, "Man on Steps, Bowl (The Thinker)," c. 1930, the Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of the Annenberg Foundation and promised gift of Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin

Hiromu Kira, a Japanese-American photographer belonging to the pictorialist movement of the 1920s and ‘30s, made this bromide print using an image he made while demonstrating a camera to a customer, the sitter, at the Hollywood Dam.

Of all of the wonderful work that I get to see and photograph here at the Conservation Center at LACMA, this print has really stuck with me. I just love the compositional elements of this picture, its simplicity and inviting repeating pattern, so modern in graphic terms, accentuated by the perfect positioning of the dwarfed subject in this massive weaving of steps which could be anywhere. The fact that the picture was made at the Hollywood Dam surprised me.

The more I think about this image, the more I feel it is a beautiful photographic representation of yin yang, where a brighter area of a step gives way to the darker area of its own self, and vice versa. The repetitious pattern going downward from top left to bottom right inversely accentuates the strength of this relationship by shortening the integration of the light-dark elements and at the same time increasing the perceived contrast of this same integration. The sitter becomes the light and dark dot simultaneously due to what seems to be a contemplative placement right in the middle of a light-dark-light interface, himself being divided in light-dark values almost in complete opposite to his surroundings. Life represented with the most minimal of elements.

Yosi Pozeilov, Senior Conservation Photographer