Tag Archives: Koji Onaka

Some Mid-December Thoughts

View of Taiji Matsue TYO-WTC exhibition
View of Taiji Matsue TYO-WTC exhibition at Nadiff

I had to go down to the Nadiff A/P/A/R/T bookstore last week — don’t ask me why they call themselves that — and they have a tiny gallery tucked into what must have once been a storage room in the basement. Tending to claustrophobia myself, and having bumped my head a few times on the narrow spiral staircase that descends down there, it may take the prize for my least favorite place to see a photography exhibit. (Perversely, it also happens to be where I saw one of the best exhibits of recent years — tiny 4×5 color landscapes of Toshio Shibata.)

Currently they’re showing Taiji Matsue, a photographer I quite like. However, not having paid any attention to the listing, I thought I had wandered into the wrong broom closet when I entered a completely dark room closed off with a black curtain, only to realize it wasn’t an exhibition of his photography at all but rather a single television auto-playing a video. (“Video installation” might be a tad generous). I was immediately turned off and was going to turn around, but just as I never leave a film or the dying cause of a lost sporting contest early, I forced myself to tough it out.

The video, or at least the seven or eight minute stretch that I saw, featured a single, fixed-camera shot of a busy Tokyo cityscape, one familiar to me from his new book TYO-WTC. Once I got past the initial urge to bolt from the room, the video grew on me and was actually quite interesting, my eye delighting in the various patterns that presented themselves in such a pedestrian view, and brought me back to my younger days when I used to eat up work of an ostensibly similar nature by such folks as Andy Warhol and Michael Snow, and to reflect with some regret on how much less patient I become with each passing year.

. . .


I don’t really see Matsue as a landscape artist but more like an earth artist or a geologist — which in fact is what he was before he turned to photography — but as we’re speaking loosely of landscapes, recently someone asked me to recommend to them some books of Japanese landscape work that were specifically “black and white and moody”. Aside from Kaiiki, which I had recently reviewed, I was hard-pressed to come up with any good examples, but the other day I finally got around to picking up Koji Onaka’s Twin Boat, which among other (frankly more important) things, would seem to meet the bill of “black and white, moody landscapes”.

From Twin Boat, by Koji OnakaI had actually passed over Onaka’s latest book for a couple of reasons. One, I simply adore his color work like Grasshopper and Dragonfly, and indeed both of those were my relatively late introduction to his work (along with Tokyo Candy Box), to the point where it was hard to accept that Onaka once worked in black and white. Secondly, I had assumed Twin Boat was, like Slow Boat which Schaden put out a few years ago, an American publication, owing to the publisher being Session Press in New York. While they are in fact the publisher, the book is really a joint publication between them and Onaka himself, and was edited by Miwa Susuda, a Japanese curator living in New York, and the book itself was printed here in Japan. So my biased bases covered, I promptly picked it up and I’m very glad I did.

Onaka’s book is certainly dark and moody in tonal palette (it seems as if a large handful of the images have been shot on days of bad weather), but it doesn’t strike me as psychologically moody. The photo from the book that I’ve included here has darkness, a looming sky, an expansive view (if not exactly a “landscape”), and in the eyes of this beholder, which is what matters most, an uplifting beauty. This is all to say that generic labels like “landscape” or loaded and heavily subjective terms like “dark” and “moody” are never the best way to talk about photography, but mea culpa we almost always over-rely on them. Speaking about talking about photography…

. . .


As Onaka’s popularity in Europe especially attests, the cachet of Japanese photography — and specifically Japanese photo books — shows no signs of abating. But as someone recently asked me, what about Japanese photo criticism? There’s plenty of tumblr-ing of Japanese photography, and certainly tons of blogs about it (this one included), but is there anyone writing about it at a more complex and nuanced level? Is there any criticism being written about Japanese photography that would be akin to say Max Kosloff, Alan Trachtenberg, Susan Sontag, or even someone in the slightly more popular vein of Janet Malcom?

My stock answer, gathered from inference and second-hand recommendations rather than primary knowledge, is Kotaro Iizawa, who has written innumerable books and was the founder and driving editorial force behind the 1990s journal Deja Vu. However, aside from some short essays, hardly any of his work is in English.

Minoru Shimizu column page screenshot
A screenshot of Minoru Shimizu’s semi-regular Critical Fieldwork column.

Recently though, I re-stumbled onto Minoru Shimizu’s semi-regular Critical Fieldwork essays over at the website for Art-It, the bilingual Japanese/English magazine about Asian Art. I confess I have not read all of the 38 essays posted there — Shimizu writes about other disciplines in addition to photography — but from what I have read I can tell that Shimizu certainly is someone worth reading. Particularly exciting for me is the prospect that Shimizu is not afraid of ruffling some well-preened feathers.

The Japanese photography “scene” as it were is a fairly chummy and mutual back-slapping place, by my observation, so when I read Shimizu refer to the work from a photographer that people seem to not be able to get enough of at the moment as “B-grade horror”, I had to take heart — not because they echo my own thoughts so much as they at least constitute a push-back against the fashionable tide. (The first footnote on that page consolidates this impression.) Superficial and reductive on my part, yes, but with only so many hours of the day and so much cheerleading to slog through, negativity is often a better tool for separating the wheat from the chaff.

Home on a Big Road — Gallery KAIDO (街道)

gallery KAIDO utility pole sign
gallery KAIDO utility pole sign -- photo by Tyler Ensrude

Text and images by Tyler Ensrude for Japan Exposures

Have you ever been to a gallery and felt as though the reception almost didn’t want you there or could care less that you entered the room? Even in Japan, a country known for it’s outstanding customer service, some places can still hold their noses in the air a bit when it comes to big art in a small space. Maybe it’s my foreign face that frightens the staff working in some galleries here to go back into the storeroom or look busy? I don’t know.

Actually, I take that back. I have had very friendly experiences in and out of Japan from helpful staff or artists who are very grateful to know their work is appreciated. Especially in parks, cafes, some more local/down-to-earth galleries and people doing joint exhibitions around Tokyo. I even remember a few free alcohol occasions! I think it must be the sterility of some of the bigger name galleries that gets to me sometimes and I think that sterility makes them come off as inhospitable or cold.

So despite my slight frustration at times I love many Tokyo galleries. Many of them are very impressive and open to new artists, but usually come at a hefty price. Young photographers and artists could always use more places to show their work at a price and a location that won’t make them think Ginza is actually made of silver, and fortunately some places have been popping up lately.

Ginza may be known for it’s pricy shops and exclusive, but very attractive, galleries. But if you want to get a good taste of what Tokyo really has to offer, you may be in for quite a hike. Galleries are rather spread out around Tokyo, especially photo galleries. You can wander for ages and it’s hard to hit too many in one day. If you’re a gallery savvy visitor to Tokyo, but you’re not sure where you’re going, this can easily turn a day of casual gallery hopping into a frustrating day of hitting up police boxes fumbling over a tiny map and talking to policemen who think you’re trying to find the nearest place to develop your film.

If you want to take a weekend afternoon to hit one of the best off-the-beaten-path photo spaces while you’re here, one that greets you with a smile, talks with you like you’re an old friend and maybe even stuffs a few extra post cards in your pocket as you’re leaving you should definitely try to find gallery KAIDO.

You keep expecting someone to come walking out of a room wearing a bathrobe and slippers!”

I’ll try and give you a little help getting there, for while it’s not the easiest gallery to find, it’s definitely worth the trek. First, take the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line (subway) to Minami-Asagaya station. (You can also take the JR Chuo Line to the area, but the Marunouchi Line is more convenient). It’s only a few minutes from Shinjuku by train or subway. When you get there look for or ask how to find Ome Kaido (Ome Avenue). Gallery KAIDO is only a few minutes walk off the side streets near Ome Kaido. Ome is a busy road that starts from way-out-west Tokyo and ends around Shinjuku and is actually the inspiration behind the gallery’s name itself.

I was surprised I remembered how to get there without the use of a map the second time I visited. The map makes it look somewhat simple, but amongst the many turns, the never ending rows of houses and the narrow paths they call “streets” here, things can look quite similar. I took a few shots of some landmarks along the way to help you find the right corners, along with a scan of the gallery’s flyer map with some translated English.

gallery Kaido English map -- click for larger map and photos along route
gallery Kaido English map -- click for larger map and photos along route

Once you’re in the vicinity, the gate of gallery KAIDO is the next challenge. You’ll see a sign on a utility pole telling you to make a left. But then you’re stuck guessing where to go next, because you’ve turned into a dead end. If you live in Tokyo, it could very well be exactly what your apartment entrance looks like and there isn’t really much more than a small sign on the gate. It’s on the left side, about half why down the dead end. From this point, walk up the steep, steel steps, take off your shoes in the entryway and… it sounds like home already, doesn’t it?

As I mentioned before, you’ll probably be greeted with a smile and the curiosity of an old style Japanese inn owner welcoming a weary guest. If you’re not the shy type and you show enough interest and have some time, you may even be offered a cup of tea. It seems a bit like you’re walking through someone’s apartment and you keep expecting someone to come walking out of a room wearing a bathrobe and slippers! It feels old, but warm and real. It’s basically two bedrooms of photos with some closed rooms I only assumed were workshop space or possibly a darkroom. One of the rooms, which was apparently the old kitchen, is now the gallery gift shop.

If you come on the right day and happen to know your Japanese photographers, you maybe even get to meet gallery KAIDO’s creator, the renowned photographer Koji Onaka. Onaka-san’s most recent photo book, A Dog In France, is starting to gain Onaka attention overseas and is a great look into his life over 20 years ago. [The Japan Exposures online bookshop has signed copies available. — ed]

Fifteen years ago Onaka-san had a gallery in Nishi-Shinjuku, which he also called KAIDO near the same Ome Avenue. That has since closed. Several years ago, Onaka-san and his wife Yuko, who runs the gallery gift shop, started looking for a new space not so near the bustling Shinjuku area. After a thorough internet apartment search, they came across the current KAIDO in Asagaya which also happened to be near Ome Avenue.

His original intention for the Asagaya gallery KAIDO was unclear for him at first, but he mainly intended to show his work there, and use the extra rooms as darkroom work space and Yuko could even use the space for some of her own interests. But recently, he’s converted it into a full-fledged gallery, welcoming his students to show their own work there for several weeks at a time. His “students” are actually attendees of his weekly workshops he holds at Kaido and random places around Tokyo and Japan. [Japan Exposures Cover Artist Sachiko Kadoi is a past workshop participant. — ed] Each week Onaka offers advice to workshop participants and gives critiques of their work. (Workshop info and exhibition schedules, as well as pictures of past critique sessions, can be seen at the workshop’s blog — Japanese only).

gallery KAIDO exhibition postcards for recent shows
gallery KAIDO exhibition postcards for recent shows

The most recent works on display (from March 20th-29th) in KAIDO’s tiny rooms when I visited were a small series of black and white images by the young Tatsuhiro Nakahara entitled Machi-Nagara (While Waiting), all of which were taken in his hometown of Hiroshima near his father’s farm. In the “PIN-UP Gallery” a playful color series called “empty, but” from Miki Iwaoka of Yokohama residents. Also a set of about 12 images from Onaka-san himself, all printed in Onaka-san’s wonderful signature mundane, smoky-grey style and taken between 1994-1999 in Hakodate, Hokkaido. Some past exhibitions included works by Tomomi Matsutani, Takeshi Dodo, and Shuhei Motoyama.

I found KAIDO a great place to see some straight-forward, down-to-earth images from some photographers who seem to love Japan and aren’t afraid to show it like it is. It’s kind of what I’d expect from a Japanese gallery in some ways after living in Japan for many years myself. It’s not exactly Ginza, but hey, Ginza’s just a dressed-up place made of silver and it’s too crowded anyway.

So, on top of the fact that gallery KAIDO provides that real, or even gritty Japanese art experience in a somewhat surreal Tokyo atmosphere, you also can rest assured that you’ll be welcomed back. KAIDO is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 1pm-7pm.

Tyler EnsrudeTyler Ensrude grew up on the plains of rural Wisconsin in the United States and has lived in Tokyo since 2002. He has a degree in photography and graphic design from the University of Wisconsin and is a contributing writer and photographer for several publications in and outside Japan. His current projects include research on foreign photography within Japan as well as Japanese photography, photography books, culture and music. He can be found online at www.tylerensrude.com and www.tylerensrude29.blogspot.com.

Interview with Sachiko Kadoi

Sachiko Kadoi was born in 1963 in Tokyo, and studied graphic design at Tama University of Art (Tokyo) from 1982-1986. She has been actively pursuing photography since 2003, and her first book Kadoi Sachiko: Photographs 2003-2008 was published in the Fall of 2008 by Sokyusha.

Here she talks to Japan Exposures about how she came to adopt photography as her means of expression, the importance of photographers as different as Michael Kenna and Koji Onaka in setting her on her creative path, and her thoughts about the man-made landscapes that comprise the dominant theme of her work.

The interview was conducted during the last week of December, 2008. In addition to the photographs that accompany this interview, please see our special Sachiko Kadoi gallery.


Japan Exposures: When did you first become interested in photography, in taking pictures?

Sachiko Kadoi: When I was 11, my father bought for me and my sister an easy-to-use half-frame compact camera for me to take with me on a school trip. This was the first time I took photos. Bringing a camera along on school trips is quite a common thing to do in Japan, but I was happy to handle the camera, and remember that it was interesting to take my own photos. It was when I was in college and bought myself a camera that I began to be more seriously interested in photography and in taking photos.

JE: You attended Tama University of Art in Tokyo, is that right?

SK: Yes, that’s right. I was interested in art from a young age. There were art books and catalogs of various exhibitions that my grandfather, who was a painter, bought into the house. I often looked at these and I also used to go to museums in my junior high school and high school days, and thought that I wanted to be a painter in the future.

But we lived in a small house, my parents, my older sister and I, and my grandparents, and I didn’t even have my own room, and so to go to art college was not easy. It was like the movie “Billy Elliot” [laughs]. I felt I needed to be independent from my parents after graduating from college, but it seemed impossible to be able to survive as a painter. So I entered the Graphic Design department at Tama University of Art. However, I came to feel that the advertising world was not a place I could be comfortable in, and ultimately, I felt that I wouldn’t be able to be happy doing that kind of work.

Sachiko Kadoi: Airport, Asahikawa, Hokkaido 2004

Thankfully, there was a photography class offered in the design department. I was interested in working in the darkroom, so it was a lot of fun. At that time, I bought a Canon 35mm camera. I still have it, and have used it without trouble for 20 years. I learned how to print black and white, as well as various other techniques little by little, such as toning prints, making photograms, solarization, etc. At any rate, I liked taking photographs. I preferred to take pictures more than looking at another photographers’ work. I didn’t look at photo books or go to photo galleries that much, compared to now. After graduating I liked to travel on my own, both within Japan and overseas, taking pictures as a way of enjoying myself.

JE: What did you do to support yourself after graduating?

SK: Rather than entering a design company after graduation, I did freelance work in the book publishing field. Mainly book design, but other various things related to books as well, such as editing, making objects for craft-making books for children, illustration, and so on. The books were mostly about natural science and geared towards children from kindergarten to primary school age, or books about practical skills and child-care counseling for child-care professionals. The work was really hard, there was a year I couldn’t have any holidays at all. During this time, I continued to hold on to the desire to do my own artwork, not photography but drawing or painting, but it just wasn’t possible because of my work load.

I looked at Kenna’s photos again after that talk, thinking that there were eight hours captured on this paper, and I began to look at photography in a new way.”

JE: When did you begin to consider photography as a creative outlet?

SK: Well, I often worked with commercial photographers in the studio and on location, and I learned about book editing work in an editorial agency that had a stock agency attached to it, where we would get stock photographs mainly related to natural science for the books. So photography was always a part of my freelance work, but I began to consider photography as a creative outlet after I went to Koji Onaka’s workshop in 2003.

JE: How did your participation in that workshop come about?

SK: There were actually a lot of things that happened in 2003 to make that year a turning point for me.

There was a retrospective exhibition of Michael Kenna’s work in Tokyo, and I attended a slide show and talk that he gave. He talked about exposing one of his photos from his Ratcliffe Power Station series for eight hours. [Kadoi remembers it being Kenna’s “Study 31” from this series. – ed] Of course I knew that he used long exposures to make those photographs, but I was very surprised to hear it was eight hours! I looked at those photos again after that talk, thinking about a camera that looked at a power station in the quiet of the night and that there were eight hours captured on this paper, and I began to look at photography in a new way. I had the feeling that a photograph was not the flow of time and space passing before my eyes that the camera captured, as a mere tool, but rather that a photograph was the flow of time and space passing before the camera, as if it was like a living thing, with its own personality, and that I captured what it was looking at. At that moment, I had the strong desire to take photographs. Although this urge was a bit strange, seeing as I had been taking photographs for 20 years.

Sachiko Kadoi: Rut, Matusdo, Chiba 2005

And then that summer I participated in Koji Onaka’s photography workshop held at the Yokohama Museum of Art. About 10 years ago a friend of mine who was into looking at photographs, knowing that I liked to travel by myself to various places, taking photos, asked me to go along with him to an exhibition of Onaka’s. He probably thought Onaka-san’s work would be good for me to study. I still remember seeing works of his shown in Ebisu that had been printed large onto rolls of paper.

I guess that in doing nothing but the opposite of what Onaka-san talked about, I was not a good student.”

JE: Could you tell us more about Onaka’s workshop, and what you learned from him?

SK: I think the most important thing that I got from the workshop was that it gave me the intention to exhibit my photos as a photographer. It was not only about my strong feelings towards art, but also that up until this time, because of my freelance work, I had had the idea that a person called “photographer” was someone who did commercial photography. So I hadn’t yet hit upon the idea that I could exhibit my own work.

Onaka-san talked to us about photography’s “時代性” (jidaisei) by which he meant a photograph’s ability to record the time period in which it was taken. According to Onaka-san, it is because of this ability that photographs derive their power. He also talked about “interestingness” captured in photographs. At this time, he was negative about even taking pictures in foreign countries because we didn’t know its jidaisei. He talked about the importance of being genuine when taking photos of subject matter with a strong character. That is his methodology for taking photos, and that is why his photos are good. However, if I followed his way, it was only occasionally that I could produce work with a similar feel.

His workshop was a good opportunity for me to think about my own photos, question what it was I wanted to do, what I had been doing up to that point, and what I should be doing going forward, and so on. As a result, I ended up ignoring Onaka-san’s words to “take more pictures of towns”. [laughs] More and more I came to take photographs of simple scenes and places. So, I guess that in doing nothing but the opposite of what he talked about, I was not a good student. [laughs] The series of photographs of the gravel mountains in the latter half of my book [Kadoi Sachiko: Photographs 2003-2008] came from such a background.

Anyway, I was still working very hard to support myself, but I was also becoming crazy about photography. Even when I finished my work at 2 o’clock in the morning, I would then look at my contact sheets for over an hour.

JE: Speaking of your book from Sokyusha, it carries the subtitle “Photographs, 2003-2008”. That makes me think this book is a “collection” of your work from the last 5 years, rather than a single project that took 5 years to photograph. How do you think of this book?

SK: Actually, I want my next book to be a single project. But I wanted to make this book first. However, rather than a collection of individual images taken over the last five years, I think the photographs have been selected and edited together to become something with a unified feel. I feel that Ota Michitaka-san has done a great job taking a number of my projects and shuffling them around. At first I showed him the postscript I had written and conveyed to him my thought process behind the taking of the photos.

[Ota runs the publishing company Sokyusha and has edited and published many important photo books, including the original Ravens by Masahisa Fukase, as well as books by Daido Moriyama, Miyako Ishiguchi, and Onaka. – ed.]

JE: The book does seem to me to be very well edited. What was the working process with Ota?

SK: At first I handed him the photos which I had selected, and about a week later he presented the first draft, and then I gave him my opinion. Every time Ota-san shifted the photos around, I would make a mock-up and he would check the sequencing again. He would suggest what photographs he thought would work the best in the sequencing, and then I would look at the contact sheets again, and print more photos as well. The inclusion in the book of photos from the “gravel mountain” series was a result of this process. We worked on this from the middle of July until October (2008). It was very tough work because of the short time span.

I don’t think that man and nature are opposing concepts, and therefore I don’t want to take photographs from such a point of view.”

JE: There are only a few photographs in the book that have any people in them, but on the other hand, it seems that almost everything we seen in the photographs comes from man, is man-made. Can you tell us more about your approach to landscapes and what attracts you to a scene?

SK: Although I am walking around places where I rarely encounter people, I’m thinking that I want to take pictures of people. But this thought to take photos of “man” doesn’t mean that I want to take pictures of, say, the elderly that I sometimes pass by on my walks. Japan is a small country, and because of this we can see a direct relationship between people and nature or the land everywhere we go. Sachiko Kadoi: From "Sank in the time and space", Hamaoka, Shizuoka, 2007I’m not particularly thinking in a conscious way that “this object has a relationship with man”, but it seems that the scenes in front of me that I want to take are essentially always those kind of scenes. I don’t think that man and nature are opposing concepts, and therefore I don’t want to take photographs from such a point of view. While there is a clamor against environmental destruction nowadays, when I look at the landscapes on islands or sand dunes, etc., I find that man’s existence is small and that I am overwhelmed by the immense power of this other thing, that is nature or what some people might call “God”. The important thing for me is that, as opposed to ruins which are of “the past”, the subjects I want to take photographs of most of all show man’s existence, and are things still in operation.

JE: These are not what many people would consider beautiful places.

SK: Daniel Stifler, who translated the postscript of my book into English, told me that the subjects of my photographs are perhaps not beautiful in a traditional sense, but that he felt I was able to find beauty in them, and that there is both space and silence. I was told similar things by some Japanese people, such as “I like your work because there is a space I can participate in”. I was very happy to hear that.

JE: How often do you photograph? Are you a photographer who is always shooting pictures, or are you a person who works more on a project by project basis?

SK: I think a bit of both, but I don’t have the feeling that I am always taking pictures. But that doesn’t mean that I take pictures by seeking out beforehand potential locations to shoot in, according to some theme or another. I think encountering the landscapes just by walking and walking is important for me. When I’m out shooting, I don’t take photos or not take photos to fit some theme.

JE: Can I ask you about the camera(s) you use and whether or not equipment is important to you?

SK: I shoot in 35mm and sometimes use a Mamiya 645 camera. I think the camera – or rather, the lens – is important, but I am not a camera otaku. My camera is not so bad, but I am thinking I want another one. I received a 6 x 9 format camera last year, so I am looking forward to taking photos with that. It is often said about me that I like to take photos unhurriedly, but I take photos as if I’m taking snapshots, and shoot quickly. I don’t vacillate about composition, and those times when I look through the viewfinder and can’t decide on a composition, I don’t take the photograph. I don’t use a tripod except in dark situations – it seems to change the photograph if I use one. As for film, I used to like XP2, but I use Tmax 400 developed in XTOL now. I process and print my own work at home.

JE: What are you working on now?
Sachiko Kadoi: From "In the beginning" Oshima, Tokyo, 2004
SK: The photographs that are in my new book are several projects that continues now. The series of gravel mountain in particular I want to spend more time continuing to photograph, and would like to publish it sometime in the future. There are lots of different photos I have taken from this series, so I am thinking about what kind of things I can do with those photos for a photo book.

I started taking photographs in parks when I was in Onaka-san’s workshop, and some of these are in the book, but I stopped taking them after that. I would like to pick that back up again. Additionally, as a new experiment, I’m making small prints of photos taken in Tokyo’s old town, which I have at an arts and crafts store called “Fukugawa Ippuku” near the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, and which I add to each month. These will be snapshots taken in the older districts in the eastern part of Tokyo, what we call “shitamachi”, around my hometown.

And lastly, it is not landscapes, but I have a project that I have been wanting to do since I began to have exhibitions of my work held. This is still at a trial stage, so I cannot talk a lot about it, but it involves photographing the movement of the body. I don’t know if I can succeed in that project or not. Anyway, I need a lot of time for all these projects!

JE: 最初に写真に興味をもったのはいつですか?

SK: 11才のとき、日光林間学校に合わせて父親が子どものためにハーフサイズのコンパクトカメラを買ってくれて、初めて自分で撮りました。修学旅行や林間学校にカメラを持っていくのは日本では一般的なことですが、自分で撮るのはおもしろく、カメラを手にしてうれしかったのを覚えています。本格的に写真を始めたのは、大学時代にカメラを買ってからです。

JE: 多摩美術大学に通われたのですよね?

SK: そうです。もともと私は美術に興味がありました。画家だった祖父が買った美人画の画集やいろいろな展覧会の図録が家にありましたので、それらを見たり、また中学高校時代は美術館に通ったりして、将来は画家になりたいなと思っていました。でも私の家族は小さな家に両親と姉と私と祖父母とで住んでいて自分の部屋もなかったし、美術大学に進むのも大変でした。映画『リトルダンサー』みたいで(笑)。それで卒業後はとにかく親から独立したいと考えていて、そんな自分にはファンアートの世界は生計を立てる上で難しく思いました。それでデザイン科に進んだのですが、入ってみたものの広告デザインの世界には馴染めませんでした。


Sachiko Kadoi: Airport, Asahikawa, Hokkaido 2004


JE: 卒業後はどうされていたのですか?

SK: 卒業後はデザイン事務所には勤めずにフリーランスで書籍の仕事をしました。ブックデザインの仕事ですが、構成、編集、造形物の制作や、イラストレーションなど、本に関するいろいろなことをやりました。主に幼児から小学生の読む自然科学の本や、保育士向けの実技書や保育カウンセリングについての本です。仕事は本当に忙しく一年休みなく働いた年もありました。その間も、作品を作りたい、これは写真ではなくドローイングやペインティングですが、その気持ちはずっと変わらず持ち続けていたのですが、忙しい毎日でなかなかできませんでした。

JE: 写真を表現手段として考え始めたのはいつですか。

SK: スタジオ撮影や野外の撮影の仕事もありましたし、主に自然科学の本に使われる写真のストックをしている編集事務所で編集の勉強をさせていただいたので、いつも写真と隣り合わせの仕事ではありました。でも表現手段として考え始めたのは2003年に尾仲さんのワークショップに通ってからです。

JE: ワークショップに通われたのはどういうきっかけですか?

SK: 2003年は私にとって、ターニングポイントとなるできごとがたくさんありました。マイケル・ケンナさんの個展があり、ご本人のスライドトークがありました。そのなかで、ケンナさんが “Ratcliffe Power Station”の写真のひとつに8時間露光したと聞き、もちろん長時間露光の写真とはわかってはいましたが8時間というのに大変驚きました。(そのシリーズの中で門井さんは「Study 31」を記憶している。- 編集者談) スライドトークが終わったあと再びその写真を、そこに8時間の時間が写っているのだと、夜の静寂に発電所に向かっているカメラを思い浮かべながら見ているうちに、こんな思いが浮かびました。

Sachiko Kadoi: Rut, Matusdo, Chiba 2005


JE: 尾仲さんのワークショップについてもう少し教えてください。

SK: 尾仲さんのワークショップで得たものの1番は、作品を発表していこうという意思をもてたということだと思います。美術に対する思いが強かっただけでなく、仕事を通じて、写真家と呼ばれる人はコマーシャルの仕事をしていると思っていたので、自分の写真を作品として発表するという考えを思いつきませんでした。


JE: 蒼穹舎から出された本について、”Photographs, 2003-2008″と副題に、ひとつのプロジェクトによる写真集というより、5年間の作品集と印象を受けましたが、そのへんについて聞かせて下さい。

SK: この次はひとつのプロジェクトで本を作りたいと考えていて、その前にこれを作っておきたかったというのがありました。ただそれぞれが独立したイメージの作品集ではなく、本として統一されたものになるように写真は絞られて編集されていると思います。編集の大田通貴さんは、いくつもの私のプロジェクトをシャッフルしながら、うまくまとめてくださったと感じています。大田さんには、後付けの文章を先に渡して、どういう思いで撮っているのかを伝えました。

JE: とてもよい編集がされていると思います。大田さんとの編集プロセスを聞かせてください。

SK: まずは大田さんにセレクトした写真を渡し、一週間後にいただいた案に今度は私が意見を出しました。写真が入れ替わるたびに私が小さい完成見本を作り、大田さんが再度流れをチェックしました。流れのなかでそこにどんな写真くるとより良いのかを聞き、コンタクトから見直しプリントを繰り返したところもありました。砂利山のあたりがそうです。2008年の7月の中旬から10月までの作業でした。期間としては短かったので大変きつい作業でもありました。


SK: もともと歩いていてもめったに人に会わない場所なのですが、「人を撮りたい」と思っているのです。でもその「人を撮りたい」と思う私の思いは、例えばたまにすれ違うお年寄りを撮るというのとは違うものであると考えています。日本は国土が狭いので、どこへ行っても人と自然(土地)との関わりが見られます。Sachiko Kadoi: From "Sank in the time and space", Hamaoka, Shizuoka, 2007特に意識して「こういうものは人との関わりだ」と考えて撮ることはありませんが、撮りたいなと思う目の前の風景がそもそもどれもそんな感じに私には思えます。人と自然は相対立するものでではないと考えていますので、そういう視点で撮りたくはありません。環境破壊が叫ばれている昨今ですが、むしろ島や砂丘などで見る風景には、人は本当小さくそれ以外の力、自然というかそれ以上の、「神」と呼ぶ人もいるでしょうが、その大きさに圧倒されることがあります。重要なことは、人の存在といっても、廃墟のように”かつて”ものではなく、現在稼働しているものを撮りたいのです。

JE: 多くの人々があまりきれいな場所と思わないでしょう。

SK: 翻訳してくれたダニエル・スティフラーさんには、私は伝統的な意味で美しいものは撮ってはいないが、どんなものにも美を見いだしていると言われました。それから私の写真には空間と静寂があるとも。似たようなことを私の写真を好きだといってくださる日本の方にも言われたことがあります。「見る私の居場所がある」と。それらを聞いたときとてもうれしく思いました。

JE: どのくらいの頻度で撮るのですか?いつも撮っているタイプの写真家でしょうか?それともプロジェクトを基本にして撮っている方でしょうか?

SK: どちらもと思いますが…、あまりいつもいつも撮っているという感じではありません。でもテーマに沿って、被写体のあるようなところをあらかじめ調べ、撮りに行くということではなく、あくまで歩いて歩いて風景に出合うことを大切に考えています。撮るときに、テーマに沿って撮ったり撮らなかったりもないです。

JE: お使いのカメラや設備について聞かせてください。

SK: 35ミリと、その他にはマミヤの645のカメラを持っていて、時々はそれで撮ります。カメラ(というかレンズ)は大切だと思いますが、”カメラオタク”ではありません。私のカメラは悪くはありませんが、また違うカメラも欲しいなとは思っています。昨年69のカメラをもらいました。今はそれで撮るのを楽しみにしています。よく人から「ゆっくり構えて撮っているようだ」と言われますが、スナップショットのような感覚で撮っていて、撮るのは速いです。構図に迷うこともなく、ファインダーをのぞきながら構図を迷うときは撮るのをやめてしまいます。暗い時間以外は三脚も使いません。三脚を使うと写真が変わってしまうように思います。フィルムについてはXP2が気に入っていたのですが、今はTmax 400を使いエクストールで現像しています。自分の家で現像もプリントもしています。

JE: これからの予定について聞かせてください。
Sachiko Kadoi: From "In the beginning" Oshima, Tokyo, 2004
SK: 写真集に収められた写真はほとんどがいくつかの継続しているプロジェクトです。特に砂利山はまだまだ時間をかけて撮り続け、近い将来まとめたいと考えています。いろんな写真がありますので、写真集でどんなことができるのか考えて進めていきたいと考えています。




Hand-crafted cameras and calendars

Two photography calendars

This being the New Year’s holiday season in Japan, the bookstores seem to have been taken over by large displays of every manner of 2009 calendars. Although there are a few tastefully designed ones, as well the old Hokusai and Hiroshige standbys, there are also disturbingly large amounts of “Lighthouses of New England” types as well.

The current crop of photo magazines also have 2009 calendars bundled together with them, but sadly these are hardly an improvement. This month’s Asahi Camera comes with a 2009 calendar full of cat photos that stretches the bounds of decent taste, in this person’s humble opinion (and I’m a cat lover, so no flames please!). PHAT’s calendar features 12 picture postcard images from Bora Bora that does neither getaway islands nor calendars any favors.

Nippon Magazine: Camera Photos: Leica 1f
Fortunately, Nippon Camera comes to the rescue with a calendar any true photography lover would love to have on their walls. They call it “Cover Cameras” and it is the literal handiwork of Yasuhiko Ishikawa. Each month a different camera is featured, including a Leica If for January, a couple of Bosley B2’s for April, and a Hasselblad SWC for December. Digital cameras are represented too.

As I have alluded to and the pictures included here perhaps give away, these are not pictures of the cameras themselves, but rather pictures of cameras Ishikawa has made with a variety of cheap materials and modeled on their “real” counterparts. Each mock camera is accompanied by some text by Ishikawa, who divides his writing equally between venerating the real camera and discussing how he made the particular model on display, how much the materials cost (very cheap, in most instances). My favorite of the bunch, shown in the extended slide show, is a Casio Exilim Pro Ex-F1 that features a body made from a cross section of a law book Ishikawa picked up for a dollar and change at a used bookstore.

Ishikawa is a designer doing both graphic and product design — his flash-based website provides ample samples (though sadly none of these hand-made cameras). As if these cameras weren’t enough evidence, the way he writes about his “cameras” reveal a quirkiness that’s quite endearing.

Koji Onaka 2009 CalendarAnother cool calendar choice for the photography lover is also from someone known for a certain quirkiness, not to mention a dry humor: photographer Koji Onaka. For this 2009 calendar, which is signed by Onaka and available in very limited quantities, Onaka has assembled a total of 14 landscapes/cityscapes done in his customary, high-contrast style.

Koji Onaka 2009 Calendar InteriorThe front and back covers feature photos from Mexico and Viet Nam, but the interior photos for each month are from different parts of Japan, including a couple from Kimitsu in Chiba where he grew up. (See photo to the right.) The pictures have some tangible connection to the months (a snowy scene for February, cherry blossom petals on the ground for April), as well as some much looser connections like his photo from the town of Obama in Fukui Prefecture for November (the town featured in a lot of silly news stories this year for obvious reasons).

Included is a 6-day excerpt from his travel diary, although this, like his typically understated captions for each photo, is only in Japanese.

Click the top image to bring up a gallery of larger images from these calendars. If you are interested in obtaining either of these, please get in touch with us using the form on the services page, but do it quick!

Acchi Kocchi: Here and There on the Web

From <em>Persona</em>, by Hiroh Kikai
Lens Culture has put up an interview with photographer Hiroh Kikai that was done by French curator and critic Marc Feustal, presumably conducted recently while Kikai was in Paris for the recently-concluded Paris Photo fair. I always appreciate photographers who are also articulate with the written word like Robert Adams, and have had a sense that Kikai, who studied philosophy at university and whose essays have been extensively published would fit this mold. However, only a few of his writings are available in English.

Truth be told, Kikai tells Feustal that “the idea of writing has always more or less paralyzed me,” and his take on writing and how it compares to photography is just one of several interesting insights into Kikai that the interview provides. I particularly appreciated this part:

To be completely honest with you, I must admit that I never look at the work of other photographers. I am always concerned that I will be destabilized by the fact that some of them are much better than I am. If a photographer cannot look at this work objectively, then he is not a true photographer. A photographer must constantly put himself into perspective because photography is not an innate language. It is not because I spend 24 hours running through the streets looking for photogenic models to pose for my camera that I will get good results.

Read the whole thing. It’s not terribly long but very insightful. Kikai’s Asakusa Portraits was published by the International Center of Photography and Steidl earlier this year, marking his first non-Japan published book. We have several earlier Kikai books in the bookstore (both new and used), including a small paperback version of the Asakusa Portraits, as well as my own personal favorite, Tokyo Labyrinth, now unfortunately out of print and a bit pricey.
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Curious to find out more about Marc Feustal, I was taken to Studio Equis Limited, which puts together exhibitions and publications focusing on post-war and contemporary Japanese photography. Feustal is one of Studio Equis’ directors along with Tsuguo Tada and Helen Feustal.

Studio Equis was behind the Eyes of an Island exhibit that was held in London in 2007, and a Hiromi Tsuchida exhibit in Los Angeles earlier this year. Not surprisingly they were involved in Paris Photo as well, where they presented Tokyo Stories, featuring nearly 100 rare prints by Hiroshi Hamaya, Tadahiko Hayashi and Shigeichi Nagano. The Studio Equis website has ample slide shows illustrating each of these exhibitions, as well as the Japan: a Self-Portrait, Photographs 1945-1964 one they will be putting on in Tokyo and Nagoya next year.

You can also browse photographs by artists including Yasuhiro Ishimoto, Toshio Shibata, and the aforementioned Hiroh Kikai, among others.
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Michael Hoppen Gallery is currently showing Hana Kinbaku, a series of “handmade, one-off diptychs, never before seen in the UK” by Nobuyoshi Araki.
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I have been looking for some sort of online blogging or reporting about Paris Photo but have not really come up with much. I’m probably not searching hard enough, although it isn’t exactly the kind of event that inspires “live blogging”, I suppose. 5B4/Errata Editions’ Jeffrey Ladd was there and he has a brief report on some of the proceedings, although nothing touching on the Japan side of things except for a picture of Koji Onaka signing books (scroll right to the end of this photo strip). It looks like he’s signing a copy of Tokyo Candy Box, which we are carrying in the bookstore (signed as well).

The event organizers themselves have posted five videos over at Dailymotion, of varying lengths (nine are listed but they include 4 duplicates). They’re a mixture of meandering through galleries and booths, and interviews with various participants or spectators, and more or less professionally done. Sound is mainly French or English depending on who is being interviewed. Japan-related content is scattered amongst all five videos.

YouTube has a few videos up which give a taste of the event. Start here or here (the latter more a slide show of pictures of the event).

This Flickr user has a few photos of the event at the beginning of his photostream. There are more photos here as well, although not so many on the Japan angle. Another gallery is here, along with a video if you scroll down the page. I was sort of expecting there to be quite a lot of photos on Flickr but there aren’t. It’s probably too early since past Paris events are well-represented.