This year marked the 20th annual “New Cosmos of Photography”, a competition started in 1991 by Canon Camera in an effort to identify young, emerging photographic artists deserving of our attention. Judged by a combination of working photographers and critics (Nobuyoshi Araki, Daido Moriyama, and Kotaro Iizawa are among those who have judged the competition in the past), this year saw 25 award winners from among 1,276 entrants in a competition judged by photographers Katsumi Omori, Masafumi Sanai, and Mika Ninagawa, and critics Minoru Shimizu and Noi Sawaragi (each judge chooses one Excellent Award winner and five Honorable Mentions).
Over the next several weeks, Japan Exposures will present extended galleries of the award-winning series from those of the 25 winners that particularly caught our eye. We kick things off with Holiday Making from Nobuto Osakabe, an Honorable Mention selection of photography critic Shimizu, who wrote in his message to entrants: “Rather than a casual photo, show us photos taken after thinking and looking as much as you can. A square screen is a white cube. Anything can be art, for example. Let’s not make simple imitations. Photos are a lower body kind of thing. So be sure to use your mind to the fullest.”
The images by Nobuto Osakabe show us Japan at play, people taking some time out and enjoying leisure activities. Naturally, the social norms of Japan still apply, and even private lives appear somewhat regulated, at least in public. Leisure activities seem best enjoyed doing the same thing as many others, at the same place as many others and, given the still largely inflexible time-off-work arrangements, at the same time as others. As an aside, Osakabe also indirectly shows us the high population density of the country (without resorting to the unsubtle visual device of crowded commuter trains, I am delighted to add), and those are the ingredients of the photographs you see here. To finish things off Osakabe picked several key locations and captured the unfolding visual theater of Holiday Making.
In Japan (and elsewhere), when we go out to work and play, by ourselves and on our own volition, we tend to think that we are distinct individuals doing something special. Osakabe’s images show us that in situations where many individuals do so, the exact opposite may occur. We are, in fact, at no point ever leaving the collective.
At first look, I thought this was a continuation of Tsuchida’s Counting Grains of Sand. Wow, beautiful perspective, an exciting photographer, can’t wait to see the rest of the series.
Just one part of Shimizu’s brief:
Photos are a lower body kind of thing. So be sure to use your mind to the fullest.
I don’t know about you people or the photographers, but my mind is what my brain does, and my brain is not in my “lower body”, however defined.
And the rest of what Shimizu writes is similarly puzzling.
Here is Shimizu expounding at length (on Tōmatsu). This is Deep Thought indeed!
MC, yes Tsuchida came to my mind as well.
Peter, although something may have gotten lost in the translation (although a quick read of the Japanese version of Shimizu’s message would seem to indicate not), I don’t find his message all that puzzling. I think he’s saying that photography is kind of a gut thing, the taking of it, the viewing of it, and therefore, all the more reason to use one’s mind to the fullest to harness that power, to use it in a controlled way, rather than letting emotions, urges, etc. rule the day.
As for the Tomatsu writings — which seemed more like expanded notes rather than a full-blown essay — I found nothing that puzzling either.
I cannot claim to have read much more from Shimizu than this, but he is well-respected by people I respect and according to those folk, if it weren’t for him and Kotaro Iizawa, the state of photography criticism in Japan would be in a very sorry state.
Well, maybe I misinterpreted Shimizu. However, you prompt me to look again at his piece on Tōmatsu. If his very first paragraph retains your interest, you’re made of sterner stuff than I am. Me, I doze off.
Iizawa — he likes good photos, he likes entirely forgettable photos. He’s prolific. Some of the choices in his little guidebook to 100 Japanese photographers seem far less interesting than Ishimoto, who doesn’t appear (though perhaps that was just a slip-up). His magazine “Dejà-vu” was good, I’ll hand him that.
What about Kaneko Ryūichi? I haven’t read much by him, but what I did read was good.
I’d love to be able to look at ‘art’ with the eye of an Art critic and gush wildly about the work but when I look at these images I feel under whelmed and wonder if it take’s training in the Art’s to produce such images or if anybody with a simple point and shoot could produce such work on an average afternoon.
Obviously I’m missing something or is it just a person’s connection to the “establishment” that makes him an artist?
Well, there’s a simple way to find out if you or anyone can produce such images on an average afternoon. (Requirements: camera, free afternoon.)
I wouldn’t worry about photography that doesn’t interest you. Just concentrate on what does interest you. Eventually either (a) fashions will change and you will be vindicated, or (b) fashions won’t change and you’ll be laughing at the way people pay ever high prices for stuff you think is boring.