In my second year attending the review sessions as a reviewer, I have developed a greater sense of appreciation for contemporary Japanese photography, especially within the context of aesthetics, form and content where I found to be very much related to the ‘being’ of the photographer and is intertwined with a personal discovery and journey of the artist, which is rather unique to this nation. Reviews are a great way to discover the ‘pulse’ of what is being photographed at any one time, and having an open mind approach is best, for the genres presented is as varied as the characters of the photographers.
The photography from 15 photographers I reviewed over two days had studies of nature, family, landscapes, objects, street scenes, street photography, architectural images, creative portraits and some ‘road trip’ style photography. The deep respect amongst the Japanese to Nature, family and the home has been the source of many of the themes I continue to see.
Of the photographers I have reviewed this year, the works had better visual narratives, were of high standards and creativity compared to 2013. As expected, the standards of presentations was exemplary, with well printed photographs and good selection of media. I understand that the selection process of the photographers was rigorous and I applaud the organisers in maintaining a standard year to year.
With the review sessions still fresh in my mind, I highlight several photographers whom I have had the opportunity of reviewing, whose works stood out, and made a lasting impression in my mind. This is not to say the others weren’t significant or memorable, however, I would like to share some of the works that have made me reflect a little, surprised me, or stood out photographically as being unique, to my readers.
Susumu Okada – White Traces
Susumu is an accomplished photographer, and he presented his White Traces in perfectly printed large sized exhibition quality inkjet prints. The size of the prints, I think were at least 40 x 50cm, hits you with so much detail and texture that is is difficult to neglect. His series White Traces are streetscapes photographed around Tokyo of isolated spots, flyover pillars, fences, backyards, carparks where the main point of focus are the tiny round white and grey marks left on the hard surfaces by kids hitting baseballs against them, countless times. The images are truly unique and has many dimensions of narrative; reflecting the passage of time, a city neglected, the lack of open spaces, inner city life, etc. One thing, not a single kid is shown playing the game. Tokyo looks deserted, dull and grey.
All images © Susumu Okada
Mina Daimon – Miniature Garden series (Hakoniwa , A world within a BENTO)
What would we do without the bento? The simple bento box is uniquely Japanese. So, Mina Daimon, a graduate in Landscape Architecture Science presented an amazing series of perfectly filled lunch boxes, which she neatly arranged items of food she painstakingly cooked, in various combinations over a period of months, and photographed them. Her idea for this series comes from the fact that she sees the bento as miniature gardens, tendered to perfection, in a variety of ways in tastes and design, all for the enjoyment of one special person, her husband. A simple idea takes on a whole new meaning, in this series about food, order, dedication and love.
© All images Mina Daimon
Here’s what she says about this series.
I do a simulation in my head before sleeping.
First, packing rice in the first layer of the lunch box.
Then sprinkling sesame seeds on the rice it and garnishing with pickles in the corner.
Taking out the ingredients which had been prepared the night before,and adding the final touches to each dish.
Boiling leaves in plentiful water for marinating.
Cutting everything into the appropriate sizes and filling to fill the second layer of the box.
Hakoniwa (the Miniature Garden) = A world within a BENTO.
I go to work with “my very own garden” hidden in my bag.
It disappears quickly, but brings me happiness through sudden bento-inspirations at work.
Everyone sees their own landscape.
Minoru Hotsuki – Persona
Minoru Hotsuki hails form Tokyo and again, is an accomplished print maker and photographer. His series of slightly otherworldly portraits, titled Persona is bizarre yet mesmerising. Taking a leaf from ancient Japanese artists, he photographs his friends in several poses, profile and straight-on, and recomposes the forward looking eye into the profile image. Digital trickery aside, this conceptual portraitist has achieved a look in his series mimicking the cubist painters, and ancient artists from the middle-east, into what is the importance of the all seeing and knowing eye, the window to one’s soul. At first glance, the portraits seem normal, perhaps a slight discomfort faces the viewer, until the technique is disclosed, the notoriety of the work shines through.
© All images Minoru Hotsuki
Hiro Tanaka – Dew Dew Dew Its
Hiro Tanaka is a great guy. I would say he is an opportunist photographer. He followed a band across America for months on end, backstage, frontstage, slept in caravans and RVs, city to city, town to town. Attended raves and parties, met countless of peoples, ate fast food, and just photographed everything, from dogs to kids, to strange plants, drunk friends, landscapes, I mean, everything. He showed me his publication called Dew, Dew, Dew, Its (which I still can’t remember what the meaning is) and I laughed. Not because the pictures are funny, although some of them definitely are, but because the photographs captured, by this ‘foreigner’ in the Land of Opportunity is so ‘in your face’ and exposes all the idiosyncrasies of a nation so diverse as is ‘road America’ in all it’s garishness and colour, that only a roadie like Hiro would have been able to capture, living amongst the very people he relied upon for his travel and lifestyle. It reminded me of Martin Parr’s more astutely photographed Think of England series. Refreshing.
All images © Hiro Tanaka
Shinji Ichikawa – Distance
Rarely have I seen ‘open spaces’ in landscapes so well photographed in Shinji Ichikawa’s project Distance. His images are tightly composed and well observed and in some pictures, he intentionally blacked out the sky or background, creating a false negative space which emphasizes the foreground, making the image surrealistic.
All images © Shinji Ichikawa
Kyoko Yamamoto – Dark series
Kyoko (or Yama as she is known) comes across as a quiet and unassuming photographer, but she has mastered the fine-art aspects of colour, composition and subject matter to high degree of perfection. I did not review her work, but she caught up with me at breakfast on the last day, and offered to show me ‘dark’ series. Wow, just blew me away!
© Kyoko Yamamoto
This series comprises of streetscapes, objects and architectural studies processed to a stop or two from total darkness, and offers a nocturnal dreamlike atmosphere punctured by luminous glimmers and shards of light. Totally moody and accomplished work. www.mwp.xii.jp
For many photographers, portfolio reviews can be a daunting task. What do you show? How do you show? What do you ask? Do you take notes? What if the work is incomplete? What about the statement? I present some suggestions for photographers attending reviews. Bring only the important series from your recent photography, it can be work in progress or recently completed. Limit them to about 10 to 15 prints per series and a maximum of 2 series, since there will not be sufficient time to view more than about two projects. I would prefer to look through loose prints than prints inserted into presentation folders, since we can re-sequence or pull out inappropriate images on the desk as we discuss the work. Quite often, photographers bring too many photographs from a project, which in actual fact may contain 2 or even 3 series. Editing of the project is really important, as it shows that you are focussed and the project idea is tight and concise. If your statement is too broad, then your images tend to be the same. ~SL