Category Archives: Gallery

Japan Exposure galleries for an extended sample of a single photographer’s work

Yu Kusanagi Gallery

Last 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).

The following gallery of images from Yu Kusanagi’s Snow (one of Ninagawa’s Honorable Mention picks) is our second gallery from the 2010 competition.

When we are looking at a photograph we are not looking at reality. We may not even look at a visual representation of reality. What we see is a photograph, an image realistic in appearance. That photograph’s objective is not to show reality to the viewer, but to construct an illusion of reality within the viewer by evocation of emotions by means of shapes, lightness, darkness and color. Even black and white photographs contain color, they are just not visible as such in the photograph.

Yu Kusanagi shows us abundantly beautiful snow. Falling from the clouds, freshly settled on houses, cars and electric poles. The visible onslaught of snow, the sheer quantities and somehow even vigor almost seem threatening, and in truth, they probably are. Yet, what is more peaceful in appearance than a world padded with soft, immaculate white?

The photographs do not let us feel the biting cold that the photographer had to bear when producing these images, even though it is clear that when seeing snow falling it has to be a cold night. The viewers perception might even be a warm and romantic sentiment. When we are looking at these photographs we are not even looking at a single common reality.

Nobuto Osakabe Gallery

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.

Manabu Someya Gallery

Japan Exposures is pleased to present a gallery of work from Manabu Someya, drawn from his series “Nirai”. Writes Japan Exposures’ editor Dirk Rösler in his review of Someya’s Nirai photobook:

I have struggled to find some adjectives that would describe the work, and whatever I think of does not seem entirely adequate so the reader should not put too much weight on them. One word is “lush”, even though that is certainly not what the photographs are meant to show primarily. The exquisitely warm and brownish color palette, signs of earth and vegetation set an important fundamental tone. We are in a hot and painfully humid place here, a place that lets us move only slowly and longing for rest in the shade of a forest, surely with the expected amount of various exotic insects that would soon settle on us.

In such a climate, Life is certain to thrive. Vegetation grows quickly, trees and bushes carry rich fruit that unless harvested become the basis for more life. It is this thought that for the first time brings us nearer to life and death.

Please also see the full review of Someya’s photobook, Nirai.

Signed copies of Nirai are available for purchase in the Japan Exposures Bookstore.

Mitsuru Fujita Gallery

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.

Koichi Nishiyama Gallery

There was a forest near the house where I lived when I was a child. When the forest existed, I felt the connection with a deep part in the world there. However, the forest has since been destroyed, and only the process of the loss and its memory were kept in my mind.

I am living in a place which is a little distant from there at the present day. When I look at the scenery in periphery of the city where I live, I can see a new contemporary scenery which overlaps with the past scenery. I keep walking and roaming around the place until it leads me to my destination. And the subdued light is shining on the space which illuminates my memory in the past.

At that time, I realize that I can regain the connection with the world.

K Nishiyama, 2010

While evidence of the man-made landscape, which very often would be more aptly titled the man-altered landscape, is visible all over the world, I have always believed that for some reason it seems more obvious and noticeable in Japan. Is it the widely acknowledged density of the place, or simply the breathtaking pace at which it takes place? Or the for Western eyes and minds incomprehensible reasoning of the decision-making process to replace areas of nature in cities that already seem short of them with more housing, roads or shopping complexes?

Observers of photographic culture in Japan are also only too familiar with the dominating style of nature and landscape photography. Images of immaculate and perfect flowers, waterways, mountains, images of nature that almost violently belie the presence of nearby powerlines and places of industry.

Koichi Nishiyama’s photographs provide a quiet view onto an environment at a crossroads in time. His introductory statement aside, we do not know what has disappeared from the scenes in front of us, neither do we know what will be there in the future. In some sense, the subject matter of these images touches on the pure essence of photography — a moment without a past and without a future. What we do know is that a decision has been made and hands were laid onto this grounds.

In my view the most powerful articulation of observing this changing landscape is not the explicit and accusing imagery that seems to shout loudly “stop doing this”, rather than pictures that calmly, yet very emotionally, seem to affirm: “this is the world, that we chose to create for ourselves”.

What we hope for from the artist is help in discovering the significance of a place. In this sense we would choose in most respects for thirty minutes with Edward Hopper’s painting Sunday Morning to thirty minutes on the street that was his subject; with Hopper’s vision we see more.Robert Adams – p.16, Beauty in Photography.

Miyuki Okuyama Gallery

Miyuki Okuyama, in her series Safe Playground that she has been working on, off and on, for the past six years, constructs pseudo-landscape scenes using miniature props. Shooting these with toy and pinhole cameras, these dark and moody scapes may bear little relation to the staid spaces of The Netherlands where she now makes her home, but they are perhaps a closer reflection of how Okuyama is negotiating her island of existence between her homeland of Japan and her current domicile, and that no man’s land between the mystery and wonder of childhood and the stifling practicality of adulthood.

Perhaps we do a disservice to the work even mentioning the low-fi, constructed nature of it — after all, what photography isn’t constructed? There is no “real thing” when it comes to photography, or for that matter, memory, and longing. They are all constructions, and all very low-fi — muddy, blurry, and fragile.

Shinya Arimoto Gallery

Don’t let his personal selection for this Japan Exposures gallery mislead you: Arimoto doesn’t only do street portraits. Visit his thoughtfully designed home page and you will find a good variety of photographs taken on the streets in Japan or other locations such as Tibet (recommended series “Why Now Tibet?”).

What shines through all his images is the gentle approach to his subjects, respectful and yet with a powerful, and at times uncomfortable, quiet undercurrent. Street photography is no longer a niche pursuit, however finding interesting angles of approach is a challenge. I believe that in this genre the photographer’s own personality makes a visible difference in the resulting photographs. I enjoyed looking at Arimoto’s street portraits because you can sense a that these were not images taken by a passing snapper, but someone who bothered to engage on the way. The photos date back over several years, with series named systematically as ariphoto vol. x and no other titles or captions that would shed some light on a context for the viewer. We can see a spectrum of subjects ranging from attractive women to what appear to be homeless people. The reasons for making this photograph is not clear to the viewer and those seeking such clarity might find Arimoto’s photographs a suitable exercise to tolerate a greater element of the unsaid when looking at images.

Shinya Arimoto was born in Osaka in 1971. He graduated from Osaka School of Visual Arts (whose faculty includes Daido Moriyama) in 1994. Since his graduation he held numerous exhibitions and since 2006 is a represented member of Totem Pole Photo Gallery. A solo exhibition titled 「ariphoto selection vol.1」is held at the gallery from 6-11 July 2010.