The collection of scenes that Mitsuru Fujita has assembled into the collection Zaisyo feature not a single discernible human figure. This hardly would seem something worth mentioning, for despite the relatively high population density of Japan, any photographer with a car and a willingness to leave the urban areas could find those vistas devoid of humans yet pregnant with significance that are the well-eaten bread and butter of certain photographers.
But given that Fujita’s subject is the man-made architectural landscape of un-urban Japan — old homes, corrugated tin sheds, light industrial factories, and old kura for storing rice, to take the most representative examples — the absence of people would seem quixotic at best, and willfully obstinate at worst. After all, these are not examples of a rundown and ruined Japan that fill up many the photography section in Japanese bookstores, but living and breathing utilitarian structures. We can only guess at Fujita’s intentions — and allow that Fujita’s chosen process of large format, 11 x 14 photography probably played its part — but ultimately what is impressed upon the viewer of the work is not the red herring of what is lacking, but the warm vernacularity of those quotidian spaces that are not media fantasy-friendly but which still form the backdrop and backbone for a significant part of the population of today’s Japan.
Please also see our book review of Zaisyo. Signed copies of the book itself are available in the Japan Exposures Bookstore.