Hiroh Kikai

Having graduated university in 1968 with a degree in philosophy and various blue collar jobs thereafter, including being a truck driver, a shipyard worker, and working on a fishing vessel, Hiroh Kikai (b. 1945) made the seemingly unlikely transition to photographer in the early 1980s. Kikai came to acclaim outside Japan with his portraits taken in Tokyo's Asakusa area, a series he began in earnest in 1985, subsequently issuing three major books in Japan of these portraits, the best known of which was Persona (2003). In 2008, Steidl bought out Asakusa Portraits which compiles much of this work. While the 2003 Persona is out-of-print and secondhand copies expensive, the smaller (in physical size, not in content) 2005 edition is an affordable introduction. Kikai of course does more than just portraits, and the still-in-print Tokyo Mutan is a very nice collection of what he calls "portraits of spaces", that is the empty streets of various Tokyo neighborhoods.