Reaching for the peak

I just returned from attending the 2018 installment of the Mt.Rokko International Photography Festival, my sixth visit as a portfolio reviewer and also to present projects and run a workshop. I join many professional colleagues from the wider photography industry from across the globe as an invited guest with the main purpose – that is, to nurture young and upcoming Japanese photographers create more meaningful projects, strengthen their ability to project a strong story through their picture taking craft, which no doubt, all of them already have brewing inside them.

[ Also link to same post in Japanese at http://www.rokkophotofestival.com ]

The festival, headed by its visionary director Takeki Sugiyama, a surgeon by profession, and totally passionate for the ‘meaning behind every photograph’, who is also an avid collector himself, is run with typical Japanese efficiency when it comes to scheduling and timekeeping, and a certain familiarity that is unique to Mt.Rokko. The volunteer team and staff already feel like family after the very first visit.

Photos by Melanie McWhorter & Chikara Komura

Held partly in downtown Kobe for the exhibitions and having the reviews in close-quarter up at Mt.Rokko, makes for an interesting long weekend for the guests and photographers, but slightly inconvenient for day visitors wanting to participate in the workshops or presentations. However, I feel that this arrangement is already being addressed over the last two years to make the festival more accommodating.

Over the years in coming to Kobe, I have gained many connections and friends in the photography world, and have also opened my eyes to contemporary Japanese photography – it’s highly aesthetic based imagery, and the very important link to nature, family and tradition. I speak of course in general terms, and there are photographers who also make non-conformist projects that surprise.

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For Mt.Rokko, I believe that it has steadily gained the reputation of being a tight-knit photo community, and being a ‘portfolio review centered’ festival, it has the advantage of fully catering to photographers seeking to maximise their exposure in gaining valuable feedback through the expertly selected workshop mentors and international reviewers. Because of the proximity of the venues and the ability of the photographers to access the reviewers throughout the weekend, there are ample opportunities for casual conversations to happen – and I believe, even more for future installments – that these downtimes are vital to allow honest exchanges on a one to one basis, in addition to the scheduled reviews.

An advantage of being a small festival, the manageable numbers also help enhance the ‘community spirit’ and camaraderie of the participating photographers who come from all over Japan, and overseas as well, and I feel this is very important, especially for first- time reviewees, and more introvert photographers, and a unique feature for Mt.Rokko.

I have been following the progress of several photographers who attended the early installments of the festival and can happily say that many of them have gained new exposure of their projects and have gone on to win international awards, recognised in festivals or have exhibitions in galleries outside Japan. I can safely say that having attended Mt.Rokko previously, played an important part in their successes.

Since 2013, Mt.Rokko festival has been much praised for their purposeful and beneficial portfolio reviews and even as we had a smaller participation size this year, the variety and standard of projects presented were of greater depth and subject matter. This may be due to the stricter pre-selection process imposed by Takeki Sugiyama, the director to improve the overall photographic standard being presented to the international reviewers.

Part of the reason for attending a festival like Mt.Rokko and its portfolio review sessions is to make new connections with the greater photographic world, with international reviewers and also other photographers from Japan and overseas. Many opportunities can present themselves to participants – especially where their projects are unique or strong, and also where the participant makes the effort to communicate and interact in open discussions or during Q&As at the presentations.

I have known several past participants who have submitted entries to the Kuala Lumpur International Photoawards and have been successful in becoming finalists and also went on to be recognised in other awards and festivals. I am glad to see this happen. I am also seeing participants who have been awarded for their projects that have become stronger and more meaningful in their edits, over the years.

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The importance of education – that is, not only by the formal way but through personal development by gaining knowledge through experience and interaction, is vital to any photographer who seeks to advance and elevate his or her craft, both technically and artistically. Portfolio reviews are an effective exercise in receiving critical feedback and guidance in a photographer’s journey for deeper self-expression. I am grateful and honoured for being able to be a part, however small, of this journey with the Mt.Rokko participants.

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Past Present Italy

Italy has a certain style and elegance that cannot truly be captured in pictures. The mix of culture, food, fashion, architecture, religion and a legacy so steeped in significant European history has culminated in a rich, thick, gravy of sensory and visual delights for photographers.

I was going through my archives in search of staircase pictures recently (see Simply Stairs ) and discovered several collections of images I have taken over the years in Rome, Venice, Tuscany and elsewhere.  I managed to select these to illustrate what I mean. It is also different from France, another country which I have visited a lot.

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SHIBUYA – Curiosity Connects the World

This is one mega-exhibition that involves so many photographers & designers that will be traveling from Tokyo to Paris in 2018. Am honoured to be part of this historic event.

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Press Release 01 November 2017

“SHIBUYA – TOKYO CURIOSITY by TOKYO-GA”

DURATION: January 2nd to January 8th, 2018
VENUE: Shibuya Hikarie 8/Cube
Organized by NPO TOKYO-GA
Supported by The 4th ward, Paris. Shibuya ward, TOKYO
Cooperated by TOKYO-GA Supporters Circle

~ Curiosity connects the world ~ Identity・Diversity・Traceability ~

As one of the most dynamic city environments in Asia, Shibuya is at the forefront of new, on-the-edge trends and more particularly, of the emergence of a new Japanese life style. The dynamics of Shibuya have attracted the attention of the Japanese media and institutions. With the support of the city ward, the NPO TOKYO-GA has been charged to produce an exhibition featuring Shibuya’s identity at Shibuya Hikarie in January 2018.

This first exhibition will be the forerunner of what we would like to conceive as a traveling exhibition that presents the identity of Shibuya and the young Japanese generation abroad. Concrete and abstract themes will be featured through photography as a central element combined with mural video projection, virtual reality and art installations.

” I expect Tokyo-GA to communicate the exquisite charm, power, and vibrations of the Tokyo Megalopolis, with its sceneries and urban landscapes, a succession of vertical and horizontal rhythmical symphonies, which no other city in the world can give.”
~ Richard COLLASSE, President, CHANEL.K.K.

TOKYO-GA Participating Photographers
Satoshi ASAKAWA, Jean-Michel BERTS, Navid BARATY, Yukari CHIKURA, Renate D’AGOSTIN, Giuseppe DE FRANCESCO, Michael FEATHER, Stéphanie FRAISSE, Michel FRAPIER, Haruhi FUJII, the GAZE, Emmanuel GUILLARD, Mikio HASUI, Roland HAGENBERG, Tatsuya HIRABAYASHI, Kenji HIRASAWA, Taishi HIROKAWA, Tomoki HIROKAWA, Naoki HONJO, Norihisa HOSAKA, Minoru HOHTSUKI, Rie ISHISHITA, Kimiko ISHIYAMA, Gentaro ISHIZUKA, Keiichi ITO, Ooki JINGU, Bishin JUMONJI, Daisuke KAMIMURA, Chiaki KANO, Junpei KATO, Haruna KAWANISHI, Evarett KENNEDY BROWN, Rei KISHITSU, Eriko KOGA, Yasutaka KOJIMA, Kentaro KUMON, Osamu KURIHARA, Edward LEVINSON, Sebastien LEBEGUE, Steven LEE, Ilse LEENDERS, Tomoaki MAKINO, Yoshiko MATSUNAGA, Chihiro MINATO, Muga MIY AHARA, Mamiko MIYAHARA, Christopher MORRIS, Daido MORIYAMA, Yuki MORITA, Ken-ichi NAGASAKI, Masataka NAKANO, Hiroki NAKASHIMA, Sakiko NOMURA, Katsumi OHMORI, Mitsugu OHNISHI, Ryo OHWADA, Atsushi OKADA, Tsutomu ONO, Yuki ONODERA, Daisuke OOZU, Cesar ORDOÑEZ. Thomas PRIOR, Bruno QUINQUET, Takehito SATO, Tatsuya SHIMOHIRA, Taku SHINDO, Vincent SOULIE, Jeremie SOUTEYRAT, Ichigo SUGAWARA, Masayoshi SUKITA, Takeshi SUMI, Mikiya TAKIMOTO, Saori TAO, Kiyoshi TATSUKAWA, Yukinori TOKORO, Yoshihiko UEDA, Makiko UI, Kikuko USUYAMA, Kazuhiko WASHIO, Kazuki WATANABE, James WHITLOW DELANO, Michael WOLF, Celine WU, Masami YAMAMOTO, Yuki YAMADA(CHAP-TYAPU), Naomi YANAGIMOTO, Hiroshi YODA, Alao YOKOGI, Guenter ZORN

 

 


TOKYO-GA 東京画 MISSION STATEMENT
DESCRIBING TOKYO SCAPES BY 100 PHOTOGRAPHERS

In spring 2011, Japan experienced one of the biggest tragedies of its history that will remain in the memory of people for generations. The tremendous earthquake, the enormous tsunami and the catastrophic meltdown of the Fukushima power plant, all three incidents have damaged heavily the beautiful Japanese landscape and the trust in a safe Japanese nation.

TOKYO-GA, established in April 2011, gathers photographs taken by 100 photographers who have chosen Tokyo as their subject. Through the perspective of these photographers, “TOKYO-GA” wants to promote reflection on the development of the Japanese capital in the aftermath of the 2011 disaster. By looking at the works, the onlooker is invited to ponder over what is beautiful, what is sad, what is important, and to evaluate the possibilities that may lie ahead. The works illustrated show us some aspects of what is essential for Tokyo, something fragile such as an atmosphere, a behaviour or a gesture.

TOKYO-GA invites to share the beat and breath of Tokyo, a city undergoing big changes in this decade, and to witness the presence with sincerity through the eyes of 100 photographers who have each of them identified Tokyo in their own personal way.

Naoko OHTA
Commissioner Founder – TOKYO-GA

Further information
NPO TOKYO-GA
c/o KLEE INC TOKYO
8-12-25, Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-0052 Tokyo Japan Tel: 81-(0)3-5410-1277 Fax: 81-(0)3-5410-1278
Mail: info@tokyo-ga.org
http://www.tokyo-ga.org/

Ends

Waterhole

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There’s a charming little oasis, a waterhole, almost hidden from view, in Wimbledon Common where I walk Kipper regularly, where the golfer’s pass by via a cut-through path down a shallow dip linking the two tee-off areas of the public golf course.

Sometimes, you’ll catch a little egret resting in the shallow waters or on a fallen branch along the waters edge. I’m sure there’s fish in the pond. Over winter, the pond water freezes to a dirty crust of ice, encasing the floating leaves and debris left over from Autumn.

Finally, I can say that this long term photo project, of documenting the Common, is taking shape, into a book sometime in the future. I have sufficient images now from 5 years of photography (since we got Kipper and began exploring the area) to make a decent edit.

More later…

Featured Artist : Sheila Zhao

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I met Sheila Zhao at the 2017 Mt.Rokko International Photo Festival  in Kobe, Japan and discovered her exhibited series The East Was Red for the first time. This series comprises of scanned vintage black and white photographs she collected in China depicting mainly the youth of the period during Mao’s reign, in various formal and semi-formal poses.

Each photograph has a patch of ‘communist’ red purposefully hiding propaganda symbols and objects used as props in the making of the original photographs, which presumably, was the intention of the photographer at the time.  These found photographs could be dated to the 50s – 70s during the height of Communist Party’s control.

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I found the work intriguing and steep in historical commentary, nuanced interpretation and concepts, and posed a few questions to her.

Q. What did you major in at Indiana University?

SZ. Journalism with a minor in anthropology.

Q. How or what made you go into photography the way you did?

SZ. I entered photography rather recklessly. I was interested in the arts in secondary school, but never pursued it in university, apart from a weeklong photography course in a media class. I bought a camera post graduation and was photographing during holidays I got from my public relations agency job. That’s where my love and interest for photography took root. I wasn’t cut out for a PR job in that capacity, and when I decided to find a new career, I looked towards photography.

Q. Your earlier photographs have a certain dream-like aesthetic to them (apart from Last Days). Did this come about accidentally or intentional?

SZ.The aesthetic initially came organically. I wasn’t intentionally trying to force myself to photograph in any certain way. However, once I recognised that this type of aesthetic came more naturally, I tried to focus on it and use it as a component to my photography.

Q. Coming to The East Was Red work, what was the source of inspiration for this series and, in terms of found photography, can you see this developing further, (perhaps a Soviet Union project?) or is this project dependent on the expansion of your collection.

SZ. The East Was Red was started after I began collecting found photographs from China. I would buy these photographs, usually originating from family albums, from vintage dealers in Shanghai and Beijing. I wanted to share the more interesting finds with a broader public – to make sure they wouldn’t be lost again – and thus began posting them on Instagram under the handle @chinalostandfound.

As my collection grew, I began noticing a pattern in photographs from the Cultural Revolution era in China, of what seemed like an enthusiastic incorporation of propaganda and the articulation of a certain mindset. It was from there that I decided to impose my own artistic interpretation. As for further development of this series, I certainly plan on continuing to collect found photographs as long as I remain in China. As for The East Was Red, there are still a few certain things that I’m looking out for that I think can better round out this work. However, at the moment I am only comfortable to make this kind of work about China, due to my personal affiliation with the country, as well as my family’s connection with it.

Q. The narrative of this series is simplistic to a post Mao viewer perhaps, but what about the older Chinese population? Have you thought about their response to this series? The ideas and topics of censorship, state apparatus, & symbolism plays deeply in this work if one analyses it closely. Do you prefer your audiences to make their own values and judgements, or like to lead them along with hints and pointers?

SZ. It’s funny you mention this about the older population. A Chinese friend of mine recently told me she showed some photos from this series to her (elderly) father. Apparently he was rather alarmed and warned to be careful where the pictures are shown. Of course this was only one person with his own memories of the past, but indeed it would be interesting to see how other people of that generation would respond to this work. As for the second part of your question, I think both points you asked about are mutually inclusive. But I think for the longevity of a body of work, it requires the audience to be engaged, for them to continuously be thinking and questioning themselves and the points the work brings up.

Q. Lastly, where do you see your photography in 5 years time?
SZ. No idea. Hopefully you’ll see The East Was Red in a book by then and I will be working on other interesting and relevant works.


More www.sheila-zhao.com

At the feet of Saints

A fleeting trip to Dublin straight after returning from Malaysia, to visit an elderly and very sick friend from the religious community.  In my life, I have confronted death in close family only 4 times and on each occasion, notwithstanding a profound sorrow, which is to be expected, new revelations are also experienced.

Death, is often unspoken nor discussed within my family, as I can imagine, in most families. Yet, it is as common as births and marriages, both joyous occasions to be cherished. In Catholicism, it is a notion that all suffering is part of a greater plan, an acceptance is a virtue. But as humans we succumb to the frailty of disease, age and doubt, all of which are inevitable, and suffering is part of a journey of acceptance and discovery. We see loved ones wither away, when their minds were still able but their bodies weren’t.

Our journeys have just begin.

 

 

ONE-SHOT PORTRAITS

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I finally took my trusty Rolleiflex off the shelf, dusted it, gave it a quick ‘once over’, clicked through all the shutter speeds, and twiddled the aperture ring to check for stiffness, and loaded a roll of Portra 160 to embark on this so-called ONE SHOT PORTRAIT project. Now that I am in Malaysia again for a good couple of weeks and then a few days in Japan,  I intend to photograph with the Rollei with the hope of capturing spontaneous and ‘truthful’ portraits of my friends, family and strangers with just the one click. So, 12 shots per roll, 12 portraits. And so on…

The idea is for the subject to feel most comfortable when I press the shutter release, with a pose that is natural & calm. I hope to catch capture a decent portrait with just one shot. If I fail, so be it, no second chance.

(Be part of this project! If you are in KL/PJ and want to be photographed give me a holler!  012 284 5838)