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.