Shinji Abe is a young, 26-year old photographer who was born in Saitama Prefecture, and who graduated from Tokyo Visual Arts professional school in 2008. He has no online presence, nor a home PC for that matter, but I was fortunate to meet him at the Third District Gallery in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward last December on the occasion of his exhibition there entitled Tokyo. It is perhaps a cliché to say that Abe is nothing like the person we’d expect to meet based on his photography, but nevertheless that was the impression I had when I discovered that the unassuming, reserved man sitting in the gallery was Abe himself.
When I asked Abe if he was a fan of Michio Yamauchi it was no surprise to hear a resounding yes, even as he was clearly embarrassed to be mentioned in the same breath as one of the masters of the street photography genre — and another modest, humble person with a demeanor quite at odds with the photography he produces. Abe acknowledged that he has a long way to go before he can get out from under that shadow, but he remains firmly committed to continuing to ply his trade on the streets, even as he noted ruefully that it is getting harder and harder to do so in a world increasingly suspicious of strangers taking pictures of other strangers.
Please also see our special gallery of Shinji Abe’s work.
UPDATE: a slide show with more photos from the exhibition is available on the Third District Gallery web site. [Click on the top postcard image; thanks to Aya Takada]