These magnificent pictures are of Siamese Fighting Fish, Betta Splendens, photographed by Hiro in the early 1980s.
There’s not much to say.
One of the things the camera can do is allow you to see well things that you could otherwise only see badly. Too big, too small, too fast, too far, whatever.
Take a brilliant photographer, a lot of care, some lights and so on, and you have a series which – even if you’re not interested in the subject – is completely compelling as photography. I have to say that I can’t tell a carp from a kipper and I couldn’t care less. These things are glorious in the same way that a tapestry can be glorious even if you don’t know what story it is supposed to tell, or a piece of calligraphy can be breathtaking in a language you can’t read.
These are one half of the exhibition postponed or delayed at Hamilton’s Gallery in London while the coronavirus does its stuff. You can see them here :
And if you surprise yourself by buying one even though you have not the slightest interest in fish, there’s a simple explanation. They’re wonderful pictures, made with consummate craft in the thinking, the seizing, and the manifesting. They’re really good dye transfers, which you can’t see here, so they are finely detailed objects as well as all the rest.
Who cares about the fish?
There’s a little footnote. Tim Jefferies, of Hamiltons, who loves doing things like that and does them with endless care, had arranged them so all the the water levels ran into each other across his gallery. I can’t do that here, but you can take it from me. They’re wonderful pictures; but they were also wonderfully displayed in the show that you now can’t see. There are installation views at the link above, though, so you can get at least an impression.