In the photobook ‘C M Y’ Japanese photographer Yuji Hamada (1979) gives insight to the process of his research on the central question of the book: What is a photograph? Working with Polaroid images that he took of simple landscapes, Hamada physically pulls apart the emulsion with tweezers, breaking down each image into their fragile component layers of colours: cyan, magenta and yellow (thus, the title, CMY). He then constructs new images by layering these coloured emulsions on top of each other, combining layers from different photographs. The photobook recreates Hamada’s separations using coloured inks printed on top of each other, so each supporting scrim of cyan, magenta or yellow is laid down separately, almost like a screen print. These ‘unfinished’ images consist of only one or two layers of different colours, and are then printed on papers of the same colours, cyan, magenta and yellow, creating a wildly vibrant photobook, more immediately relatable to graphic design than photography.
In mixing coloured layers of one photograph with another, Hamada changes each of his photographs into something completely different. Because different layers of colour from the same photograph are used in the book across different pages, it can appear repetitive, but the book is able to maintain the viewer’s interest by adding new elements and the novelty of each photograph following in a different set of colours.
By photographing landscapes, Hamada’s research into the definition of photography also visualizes the deconstructed image of nature. Images of landscapes surround us daily and influence our perspective on the landscape as we (want to) see it. In these brightly coloured portrayals of nature, pulled apart and put back together, the artist presents to us something hardly recognisable as nature at all.