Koji Onaka was born in Nogata in 1960, on the island of Kyushu, an island with an industrial past of coal mines and steelworks situated in the south of Japan. Possessed by the discovery of Tales of Tono, he worked as a quantity surveyor for the steel producer Nippon Steel for two years, and then headed back to Tokyo to study photography with Daido Moriyama. He participated in Image Shop CAMP and became acquainted with artists such as Masahisa Fukase, Takuma Nakahira… Beginning in 1991, in the same line as the Ukiyo-e (images of the floating world), Hokusai’s La Manga and some essential works of Japanese photography, Koji Onaka would publish several books, and create or participate in several magazines. His images are delicious mixtures of things of the world. Slow Boat, his ‘last series of monochromatic photos’ (1980-1999), was published in 2003. It was around its re-release in 2008 that his work would become known in Europe. In 2013, Twin Boat then rounded out this voyage synchronously in black and white. At the end of the 1990s, he transformed his laboratory and procured equipment for producing colour images. Photography and voyage comprise one, the camera becoming memory. Counter to a heady and immediate geolocalisation, Koji Onaka’s atemporal photographs – reflections of impermanence – are a gentle invitation to a ballad along which our own images and memories juxtapose and intertwine.
The exhibition at Fondation A Stichting gathers several of Koji Onaka’s monochromes drawn from various publications as well as colour images from My Favorite 21 and a selection from Lucky Cat, two books published in 2013.