Category Archives: Photographer Profile

A profile of a working photographer, based in Japan or occasionally elsewhere

Interview with Shintaro Sato

At first glance, the cityscape photos of Shintaro Sato seem to belong to that cliche of Tokyo as the hyperreal, super cool metropolis à la Blade Runner. Here is the great metropolis, tantalizingly beautiful in the twilight of the day, slowly succumbing to the neon-fueled incandescence of night. But to reduce Sato’s work to fulfilling this fantasy is a bit like not being able to see the city for the skyscrapers.

What is remarkable about Sato’s cityscapes is not merely that they escape cliche, but that they do so while also confounding our expectations about cityscapes themselves. Sure the skylines are there, teeming against the backdrop of the sun’s aftermath or the occasional fireworks burst, but what makes his photographs so rich and inviting of repeated viewings is that Sato has deftly managed, from the various 10th floor fire escapes that serve as his observation deck, to hitch the grandeur of these distant vistas to the here and now of a lived, real city of parking lots, public housing complexes, cellular antennas, rooftop air ventilators, apartment buildings and single-family homes, to say nothing of the palpable if unseen presence of the millions that call Tokyo home. To paraphrase the famous tagline, there are 12 million stories in the city of Sato’s birth, and in Sato’s Tokyo Twilight Zone, we get to see a few of them.

Japan Exposures is pleased to present the following extended interview with Sato, conducted earlier this year on the occasion of Sato being awarded the Newcomer’s Award from the Photographic Society of Japan. Sato talks to us about what it is that attracts him to photographing Tokyo, how he got started in photography, and the challenges of being a “house husband”, in addition to talking about his current work-in-progress revolving around the Tokyo Sky Tree broadcasting tower now being built.

Please also see our Cover Photo from Sato, taken from his “Tokyo Sky Tree” series.

Japan Exposures: Can you talk about when you first became interested in photography.

Shintaro Sato: In high school. I saw pictures by Keizo Kitajima in a magazine. At that time, I was not so fascinated with art, I was on the judo team, etc., but his photos were good. And after I graduated high school, I was fascinated with Shinya Fujiwara’s photos from India. Those two photographers fascinated me.

JE: And so then after high school you went to…..

SS: Tokyo College of Photography.

JE: Were you already shooting?

SS: Of course I took some photos, but I only started shooting seriously after I entered school. I was there for three years. But my third year of photography school was also my first year at Waseda University. I wanted to study literature there.

JE: How was the photography school important to you?

SS: I got acquainted with many young photographers, many young students, which was inspiring for me. The way of looking at things was important, and I had some good teachers who taught me different ways to see things. It was at that time that I started to take pictures of the town.

JE: So quite early you were interested in the city and cityscapes.

SS: Yes, but before that I was taking very girly pictures, like flowers and wet roads. [laughs]

JE: After graduating from Waseda, you went to work at Kyodo News. You worked there for 7 years, correct?

SS: Yes. At first I worked with writers in the culture section, and so I would meet and shoot many artists, TV personalities, actresses, etc., that were being interviewed. It was good, but after four or five years, I got transferred to the news section. The job then became difficult. In the news section I took pictures of everything from baseball to accidents and murders.

JE: So you left?

SS: Yes. I didn’t like news photography. It was hard work, and it took most of my time. I didn’t have any time leftover to focus on my own personal work.

JE: Could you talk a little bit about your first book, Night Lights, which was published in 2000.

From Night Lights series © Shintaro Sato
From Night Lights series © Shintaro Sato
SS: I took the photos in adult entertainment districts in Osaka and Tokyo — kind of red light districts. When I first saw these densely populated areas, I thought that I had to take pictures there. I was fascinated with this kind of area, and so I took pictures, especially of all these signboards. I like densely formatted photos, like those of William Klein, or Osamu Kanemura. Maybe these shops set out their signboards just for their practical need, and not for the beauty of them. But from my vantage point, these signboards created some beautiful rhythms and shapes. I think this unconscious or unintentional beauty is interesting.

JE: How long are the exposures for these photos?

SS: This series is special, because each shot needs just 30 seconds, but I have to cover up my lens when people show up in the frame. So sometimes I have to cover up my lens and wait for several minutes until people dissapear from the frame. So to make a 30 seconds exposure, I have to be shooting in this place for about 30 minutes. It could be very frustrating, when someone shows up and starts using his cell phone. I want to say, “Get out of here!”

JE: Why did you not want any people in the shot?

SS: I wanted to show the thing itself. If people show up in the frame, the viewer sees people. Just the signs, just light, just colors, just the thing itself. And the rhythm these things were making.

JE: This project was shot at night, of course, and Tokyo Twilight Zone was shot as the day turned into night. What attracts you about this time of day?

SS: I’m fascinated with the colors and light at night. Also, I think in these pictures we can see everything, whereas in daytime maybe we cannot see like this. We can see dark and light at the same time. And color has more variety at night than in the daytime. For example, the sky appears red, dark places like the top of a building has a bluish color, the signboards are more vivid than in the daytime. And from the flow of light or the light coming from each of the windows, we can see signs of life more clearly than we can in the daytime, even though actual people cannot be seen in the photos.

JE: Did this project lead into Tokyo Twilight Zone, or do you see them as separate projects?

Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 2005 © Shintaro Sato
Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 2005 © Shintaro Sato
SS: While I was walking in these kind of narrow streets, sometimes I would wonder what it looked like from afar, and that led me toward the Tokyo Twilight Zone series. For me these two series have some continuity. Beauty in chaos, and unconscious beauty in Tokyo.

JE: All the photos in Tokyo Twilight Zone have a same kind of perspective, for example the horizon line is usually in the same position. Did you decide on the general look of each shot very early on in the project?

SS: Yes. I wanted to show density, but just density was not good enough for me. I needed to show space and color, like the blue sky, at the same time. As for the proportion of city and sky, I can’t remember why I chose it that way, but it just balanced best for me.

JE: The photos are not just cityscapes, but they also seem to be portraits of these different neighborhoods in Tokyo. Was that important?

In World War II, this area east of Tokyo was burned to ashes, and after, people remade their houses and their lives by necessity. That kind of historical power which is born from necessity and not from a sense of beauty, fascinates me.”

SS: Yes, very important. East Tokyo is important for me. I was born around this area — that’s one thing. Also, it’s not a very new place, like Shinjuku. In this area there are many old houses next to new high-rise buildings. That is chaos. But I feel a kind of power from this area, from this kind of disorder. This place has the unconscious power of chaos. In World War II, this area east of Tokyo was burned to ashes, and so after WWII, people remade their houses and their lives by necessity. That kind of historical power, that kind of unconscious power which is born from necessity and not from a sense of beauty, fascinates me.

JE: What was the “hit rate” for Tokyo Twilight Zone? You take, say, 10 pictures — how many of them are as good as the ones in the book?

SS: My success rate was not so low, because I am walking around during the daytime so many times, scouting locations, so when I take a picture, I know it’s a good location. I carry a map and notebook and mark down the place, the name of the building, the address.

JE: For many shots, you have to go to the same building twice?

SS: More than twice. Sometimes 10 times. This place [pointing to a photograph in Tokyo Twilight Zone], maybe I went to this place 20 times. Many many times, anyway. I like going to the same places. And sometimes I have to quit because of the strong wind.

JE: You also mentioned that you only shot in 2 different seasons for this project?

Yahiro, Sumida-ku, Tokyo, 2004  © Shintaro Sato
Yahiro, Sumida-ku, Tokyo, 2004 © Shintaro Sato
SS: December/January is the main season for me, and sometimes summer, for fireworks. The sky is very clear in December and January.

JE: Is this project finished, now that you have published the book?

SS: No, I will continue this project. Even if I take pictures of the same place, I can still take photos that are different because Tokyo itself is changing. Maybe I will go somewhere in the future and see a tall highrise building built there. I want to take photos of that changing Tokyo. I want to continue until I’m dead, 20 years or so. Life is short.

JE: But you’re still young?

SS: No, no. I’m 40, so maybe 30 years or so left. It’s not such a long time.

JE: The project is very multi-dimensional, isn’t it. It’s not just landscape. It’s almost like a portrait series, excepts it’s not a person, it’s the town. And the town, like a person, changes over time. So it’s like taking the same picture of a family, or the same people, over and over again, that makes it interesting.

I’m very interested in people. Many people gathering and making something. I think that’s interesting.”

SS: It’s like Nicholas Nixon’s Brown Sisters. [laughs]

JE: You mentioned that in the Night Lights, you were not interested in people, just the signs. Here of course because of the distance there are no people per se. And your new project is also about building a new tower. Are you not interested in people?

SS: No, no. I’m very interested in people, like this. [Points to a picture from his ongoing current project] I think this is interesting — many, many people gathering and making something. I think that’s interesting. So I make this kind of large close-up shot of all these people doing something. I’m taking those kinds of pictures. That’s what is interesting for me.

JE: But generally, you’re not interested in portraits, or street photography. You’re more interested in shots from a tripod, or from a distant point. Why is that?

SS: I like the paintings of Breughel. In those paintings, many people are doing something, but doing different things in one picture. We can see many different scenes in one picture. To get many different things in one shot, I have to view a place at a distance. So shooting from a distance is good for me.

JE: You took the Tokyo Twilight Zone project with a 4×5 camera and on film. and the newer project on the Tokyo Sky Tree tower is mostly digital. Why did you shoot the Tokyo Twilight Zone project with film? Why not even then use a digital camera?

SS: Just a quality problem. Resolution, quality. I needed high resolution. If I could have used a digital camera equal to large format film, maybe I would have used that.

JE: Why is high resolution important?

SS: A desire for details. I want to see much more details in my picture. If possible, I want to be able to see the expressions on the faces of people who are standing in the distance, after enlarging the photo. You can sometimes see people in my picture, after enlarging. I want to show what kind of face, what kind of person is there. So high resolution is important. And if I make a very large picture, for example 1 meter wide on one side, you can see a man who is lying on his side in his room. I can see that in this picture. [points to a picture] With digital, I can get easier close up shot like enlarge, so I can get enlarge and enlarge, and I can see this person in large size. I like that.

From Tokyo Sky Tree series. © Shintaro Sato
From Tokyo Sky Tree series. © Shintaro Sato
JE: Now with the new project, you feel it’s time to switch over to digital?

SS: Yes. Not only is the camera quality good, but it is also better able to resist bad shooting conditions, so I don’t need to wait. If I wait until good shooting conditions come, like no wind, good weather, etc., the Tokyo Sky Tree tower continues to be built. So I need speed for this project. I need a camera I can use in bad conditions.

JE: Can you talk about this new project, how it got started?

SS: Yes. The advertising company Hakuhodo asked me to shoot the Tokyo Sky Tree for a big poster they wanted to do. At that time they were just doing foundation work, so I just shot the landscape of the building site. That was how it started. After that job was finished, I started to think that this new building was important, because it will change the landscape of East Tokyo. I was taking pictures of East Tokyo [for Twilight Zone], and this thing will change that landscape, so I thought that I have to take these pictures.

JE: The angle, the proportion of the sky to the ground, is of course quite different from Twilight Zone. These are only three pictures, but is this the general angle, the balance of the foreground to background, etc.?

SS: No, the tower will grow so high like this [gestures], so I have to change the proportion, according to the growth of the tower. I think that’s interesting, and that’s why I need a digital camera for this project, as it is very flexible.

JE: How would you like your pictures to be seen as? As a record of what things looked like or how people lived at the time. What’s the sort of value to the next generation?

Hashiba, Taito-ku, Tokyo, 2005 © Shintaro Sato
Hashiba, Taito-ku, Tokyo, 2005 © Shintaro Sato
SS: Mainly as a record of Tokyo. I think Tokyo is going to become more homogenized. So photographs of Tokyo in these current times are important. I often take pictures of the eastern part of Tokyo because that place is not standardized yet. And every time I see Utagawa Hiroshige’s ukiyo-e prints of Edo-era Tokyo, I hope my photographs will be seen like his pictures. His pictures are a record of that time.

JE: Do you have a specific audience in mind, or a particular purpose for your photos?

SS: Of course to make a record of the town where I was born is important for me. That’s one thing.

JE: Is there any critical judgment, either looking at the photo or looking at the location?

SS: No, just some impact, just whether or not I can feel the power of the town. That’s my judgment. The town was made by necessity, and not by beauty, but from the fire escape I can feel the beauty and power of human beings who made the town. Whether something is beautiful or not beautiful is not important. Beauty is very complicated notion. I feel some place is beautiful where many people don’t and I feel another place is ugly where people think it’s beautiful. Beautiful is ugly and ugly is beautiful. To me Tokyo is beautiful, not ugly. I don’t really understand “ugly”.

JE: When you say you don’t understand “ugly”, do you mean this scene, or in general?

SS: Things are not so simple. I think I take pictures of places where you cannot just say “beautiful” or “ugly”. Things are more complicated than that. I like those place which you can say beautiful and at the same time ugly.

JE: What do you think about people from overseas being interested in your work?

SS: I’m glad of course, but I don’t have much opportunity to have conversations with people from other countries. I would like to ask, why are people outside of Japan interested in my work. Maybe in my work of Tokyo, there are some elements that they don’t have in their countries. Part of the reason is the charm of Tokyo — I think Tokyo fascinates people because it is beautiful and at the same time ugly. It cannot be understood by dualism like human life cannot be. My pictures show that aspect of Tokyo clearly.

From Tokyo Sky Tree series. © Shintaro Sato.
From Tokyo Sky Tree series. © Shintaro Sato.
JE: What’s your main source of income?

SS: Commercial work, and teaching school. Sometimes I do product photography, like taking pictures of clothes. And sometimes some magazines ask me to use my photos in their magazines, and they will give me some money. From that kind of thing. But mainly I’m a house husband.

JE: How do you balance your own personal photography work with your family and your obligations as a father and husband.

SS: I don’t do anything special. For example, I make my prints in my lab in my house. And during a break, I can cook, I can play with the kids, I can take my kids to the doctor. So I can balance my work with with my family.

JE: It’s not so common in Japan where the wife works full time and the husband stays home.

SS: Normally I feel nothing special about it, but when I go shopping in the daytime, I feel a little weird, self-conscious.

JE: Did your parents every say, “Why don’t you get a real job?”

SS: No. I show my parents my photos, so I think they think I make money.

JE: Tell us more about your commercial work?

SS: Well, the other day I took a picture for the cover of a Panasonic lighting catalog. Panasonic wanted me to take a picture of Tokyo at night. They wanted to use something new, rather than something from Tokyo Twilight Zone, so they asked me to take a photo in Shinjuku, with a row of normal houses in the foreground, and highrise buildings in the background. So I searched for a spot and found an apartment in Nakano [the neighboring ward to Shinjuku — ed.].

JE: Did you ask for permission?

SS: Yes. The guard was a very nice person. [laughs]

I’m feeling that life is very short, that I’m a little old, and that there’s no time. In the long history of Tokyo, I can take pictures for a very short period like 30 years or so.”

JE: Your Tokyo Twilight Zone book has been very successful.

SS: Yes, now it’s running into a second printing, and I want maybe within a year for it to go into a third printing.

JE: This year you were awarded the Newcomer’s Award from the Photographic Society of Japan. Do you think you are a newcomer?

SS: Yes, in the photo world, anyone 40 or under is a newcomer. Of course I’m glad I received the award, because I thought I didn’t get it. I was just taking pictures because I thought I had to. That’s all. About getting a prize, I don’t have anything to do. It’s luck. Luck is important, so it’s hard to get.

JE: What about other “newcomers” that you think are doing interesting work?

SS: One photographer is Yuki Kanehira, who is taking photos of the Doujinkai apartments. He is kind of crazy, he is doing just that project. So until the last of Doujinkai apartments will be removed, he will continue shooting. He is a very weird person, but I want to introduce your readers to him. He is crazy.There is maybe just one more apartment left, and he lives there. He works very early in the morning distributing newspapers, to support himself. He is great, and I admire him.

JE: Anyone else?

SS: They are not newcomers, but Mistugu Onishi, Naoya Hatakeyama, Koji Onaka, Kanemura — I love their photographs. I think they are all great. Onishi-sensei was one of my teachers at the photography school. He’s great.

Shintaro Sato. Photo by Dirk Rösler.
Shintaro Sato. Photo by Dirk Rösler.
JE: Turning 40 this year, the “newcomer” — as a photographer, now is the big time ahead of you. Do you feel you are in a good position to go on to take photographs? Or do you feel too old?

SS: I’m feeling that life is very short, that I’m a little old, and that there’s no time. In the long history of Tokyo, I can take pictures for a very short period like 30 years or so. And besides taking photographs, I have many things to do. Studying English is one of them — I’m studying English everyday. And I have so many books to read. I wish I were still 20 years old.

We have signed copies of Tokyo Twilight Zone available through the Japan Exposures bookstore.

Travelling with Clowns — Toshio Enomoto

Text and images by Tyler Ensrude for Japan Exposures

In Toshio Enomoto’s series Arlequin we can see a beautiful, present-day version of the classic circus right here in the heart of Japan. Arlequin is the French word for clown or jester; sometimes also written harlequin. At first glance, it’s hard to tell when these photographs were taken. It turns out that Arlequin, photographs of the Kigure Circus, consist of various images between 1998 and 2008, much later than I had originally assumed.

Shot with either a Hasselblad or Mamiya 6, these timeless square B&W prints could easily have been from the 1950s, 60s or 70s. The lasting characterization that kept me guessing on the date could possibly be from his subject’s signature uniform. The white face, the squirting flower, the giant shoes, as well as our image of the circus altogether, the appearance of the circus clown has gone virtually unchanged over the decades.

The clown without the face paint or the clown behind the scenes has always been a subject begging to be photographed.”

But, on the other hand, our depiction of and our fascination with the clown have taken on many forms over the past century. Our Hollywood horror provoked coulrophobia (abnormal or exaggerated fear of clowns — Ed.) and the humor we get out of the clown who has let their guard down, revealing the person he or she really is, has encompassed our overly entertained minds through out the 80s and 90s. The clown without the face paint or the clown behind the scenes has always been a subject begging to be photographed — back in the days of early photography and after seeing and listening to Enomoto’s take on the circus, that urge and attraction is obviously still alive today.

In the early and mid-twentieth century, with the popularity of photography as a way to document a life or a group of people over a period of time coming into play (i.e. Riis or Lange), we soon were able to take a subject, such as the clown, and expose it for what for what it really was from within.

Travelling with clowns - Toshio Enomoto

Take Circus by Bruce Davidson, for example, from the late 1950s. We see portraits of clowns, unmasked, smoking, working hard and — for the first time — just being human. We see the lives of the performers and the “misfits” who loved and hated what they do. This concept of “exposure” is very similar to Enomoto’s portrayal of the circus as well.

Davidson’s images in Circus of Jimmy “Little Man” Armstrong make that book the classic that it is. He’s a small guy with the typical exaggerated clown emotions, but often, captured by Davidson, without the face paint. That was the real “Little Man”. You could even go as far to say it was one of the first times we looked at an abnormally small person as human.

Diane Arbus’s portrayal of Freaks from the 60s and early 70s did more of the same, if not more so. Her work of the short, tall, and tattooed showed us the life of the sideshow performers, who had been gawked at and treated as if they were animals for centuries. The human side of the circus had been exposed and it further fuelled our fascination and curiosity to find out who these people really are, pushing closer and closer toward the deeper, cinematic, yet all-human clown we think of today.

Travelling with clowns - Toshio EnomotoTravelling with clowns - Toshio Enomoto

Much like Davidson or Arbus, Enomoto in Arlequin was able to exhume the circus for what it really is. You see the backbreaking life of the circus staff, the circus mothers and their children, the cramped quarters they’re living in, the rehearsals and performers of all kinds trying to make a living at what they do best.

But, Enomoto’s photographs seem to be slightly different. Those performers who seem to be struggling with life or seem to feel like an outcast, the ones trying to find a place in society or to remain sane in a somewhat insane setting, appear to be missing from Enomoto’s photographs. He very eloquently shows how today’s circus, behind the curtain, can be arduous, but at the same time fulfilling for the people who participate in it. They really seem to love what they are doing and, perhaps, the life in the circus, the clowns, and the “freaks” have changed more than it seems on the outside.

The circus has always been known as accepting to those not accepted in society, but nowadays, maybe, we, the audience, have changed and we have a better understanding of the truth and to who these people really are, thanks in part to the photographic exposure given to the people involved in it.

I was lucky enough to get invited to meet with Enomoto-san for a few minutes at his exhibition at the Nikon Salon Ginza. That morning, I had only sent him a quick mail in hopes he would answer a few questions the same morning and he said to come on down to Ginza again and we can talk in-person. I was taken aback a bit by his gesture of kindness to a complete stranger, but I rushed back to the Nikon Salon that afternoon to see if I couldn’t find out more about this intriguing ‘Arlequin’ photographer.

Toshio Enomoto at the Nikon Salon Ginza (Photo by Tyler Ensrude)
Toshio Enomoto at the Nikon Salon Ginza (Photo by Tyler Ensrude)
It turns out that Enomoto has a very prominent history and was quite the traveller himself in the past. His most well known series of photographs and book is called Tooi Higashi or Far East (in the literal sense) and was originally displayed at the same Nikon Salon Ginza in 1974. The photographs, from that same year, cover his trip through most of Asia in a Toyota High Ace with his friend at the age of 24. Not only are the photographs and this book an amazing recollection of his road trip, but in a way, are visions of a young man changing and growing as a photographer. The journey in itself is something to be proud of as it covered countries including Turkey, via the Silk Road routes, through the Byzantine ruins, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nepal.

His more recent works in Japan of Kyoto (Twilight Memories: Kyoto) and Sakura are mostly shots taken at dawn or dusk, with very little available light. Small things like the swaying of the cherry tree branches in the breeze, the stillness of the rain water after a big spring storm, the darkness of the temples in the early morning of winter and the evening quarters of the courtesan readying themselves for the night are very powerful and convey that moment he opened his cameras’ shutter so vividly. The images are usually sharp, but sometimes blurred, are all black and white and often convey strong depth, both compositionally and aesthetically. His book entitled Kagirohi or Lamp flame is an wonderful compilation of his view into Kyoto by the light of the Kagiro.

Finally, I asked him a little bit about his photographs in Arlequin. My initial impression and interpretation appeared to be right, as I had mentioned earlier, in that the circus has always been an accepting place. He said that that is one of the best things about being involved in the circus for the last ten years. He likes the sense of family the circus holds. Whether a performer is from Russia, China, Thailand or Japan, it’s all for one and one for all. He’s watched the children grow, learn from and admire their parent’s profession and even start to perform alongside them. In a way, you could say that he has been accepted into this group as well after photographing and documenting their lives for so long. He’s looking forward to seeing them grow and change even further as he continues to follow and photograph the Kigure circus today. Look for ‘Arlequin’ in print some time in the near future.

More images can be seen at Toshio Enomoto’s website.

Tyler EnsrudeTyler Ensrude is a contributing photographer and writer from the U.S. currently residing in Tokyo.

His work can be seen at and


Interview with Hiroyo Kaneko

I first came across the work of Hiroyo Kaneko earlier this year when I received my copy of Lay Flat, the new photography magazine started by Shane Lavalette. Included with the journal were 20 or so photographs by various artists, each printed individually on card stock. When I came to Kaneko’s image from her Picnic series (reproduced here), I was given a little start — here was a scene that was unmistakably of Japan, and yet somehow not of it at the same time. I was intrigued.

It was only a couple of weeks later that I read a blog post somewhere noting that Kaneko had won the prestigious Santa Fe Prize for Photography for her series Sentimental Education. It seemed almost too much of a coincidence. (So too did learning the fact that Kaneko had attended the school I had spent four years of my own educational life at — San Francisco Art Institute.) I wanted to know more about this person who was exploring such threads of the Japanese cultural and societal fabric as hot spring baths and cherry blossom viewing parties while removed in part from the day to day-ness of life in Japan.

This interview was conducted over email in May. Please also see our Cover Photo featuring Kaneko.

Japan Exposures: I would like to know how you first became interested in photography. You majored in French Literature at Meiji Gakuin University. How did you go from that to attending San Francisco Art Institute and earning an Masters of Fine Arts in Photography there?

Hiroyo Kaneko: When I was in Meiji Gakuin, I took some classes about the visual arts and film. That was because the period that I was studying within French Literature was early to mid 20th century, a time when all the cultural movements interacted each other. I was interested in the relationship between writers, visual artists and filmmakers, such as Andre Breton, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp and Luis Bunuel.

I was also into French New Wave films, especially Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut as well as Japanese film makers, like Yasujiro Ozu, Mikio Naruse and Seijun Suzuki. All those visual experiences got me involved in a filmmaking circle and I made a few 8mm films with my classmates. However, after we graduated it became difficult to get together to continue the activity, and then I gradually shifted to photography which I could do on my own.

After working in an advertising office for a couple of years, I went to London to study English and photography. I attended a small art college and got a diploma in photography, then went back to Tokyo and started working as an assistant photographer, and eventually as a freelance photographer and writer for some culture and photography magazines.  At the same time, I kept working on my own photo projects. This was from mid-1990s to the turn of the 21st century.

The more I had chance to have exhibitions, the more I became interested in focusing on art photography for myself. Then I decided to go to the United States to pursue photography further. San Francisco Art Institute was one of the schools that I applied to, I was interested in it because a few interesting photographers had gone there, such as Lewis Baltz, Annie Leibovitz, Jim Goldberg, Catherine Opie, etc.

I got interested in seeing how our ordinary daily experiences nurture the ways we communicate with each other.”

JE: You still live in San Francisco. How long have you now lived in the U.S.?

HK: I have lived here since 2002. San Francisco is a comfortable place to live. Compared to Tokyo, New York, or other bigger cities, it’s slow and relaxed. But at the same time, the art scene is quite active. Although there are not many commercial galleries — actually I guess it’s almost the same size as Tokyo where the contemporary art market is really small – there are some alternative and community art galleries and organizations over the city which offer various events all the time. If you go over to the East Bay, you can see a different type of art scene as well. I should also mention that the Pacific Film Archive in the UC Berkeley and a few other independent movie theaters let me stay here as they always show a variety of film programs.

Hiroyo Kaneko - from "fountains" series
Hiroyo Kaneko – from “fountains” series
JE: How often — and for how long each time — do you return to Japan?

HK: I go back to Japan about twice a year since graduating, and stay for a couple of weeks to a month each time.

JE: Although based in the U.S., your projects themselves seem to be based very much around Japan and subjects close to Japan, such as cherry blossoms or hot springs. Do you think living outside of Japan lets you look at these familiar aspects of Japan in a different way?

HK: Although I said before that San Francisco is a comfortable place to live, for the first couple of years after I moved here, I experienced severe difficulty communicating with others. This doesn’t mean that the people in the US are more severe than people in Japan. I guess that any community in contemporary society should be same more or less, even within families. But for me, it was more obvious here because I was a stranger, had a language barrier, and faced cultural differences, etc.

However I also became more grateful and found it precious when I saw mutual respect or understanding. For those reasons, I got interested in seeing how our ordinary daily experiences (rituals) nurture the ways we communicate with each other and how we interact emotionally with each other. Rather than showing the tough side, I wanted to show something more neutral, basic or more positive and warmer aspects of it.

Then I came up with the idea of photographing people in bathhouses in Japan which seemed to me an ideal setting for my purpose. The cherry blossom pictures stem from a similar idea. I photographed them in Hirosaki in Aomori Prefecture, where I was born and spent my childhood. I was interested in reviewing and recreating my early experience which, I guess, helped to create my emotional makeup.

JE: In one of your artist statements [The Three Cornered World, 2006 — Ed.] you talk about moving around a lot due to your father’s work, and seeing yourself as a stranger. Can you talk more about how this idea of being a stranger manifests itself in your photography?

HK: As I wrote on that statement, the idea came from a novel by Natsume Soseki, who I like a lot. In his novel “The Three Cornered World”, he wrote:

Objectively you may feel that the love of a man for his wife or his parents is beautiful, and that loyalty and patriotism are fine things. When, however, you yourself are actually involved with them, the violent flurry of pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages, will blind you to all beauty and splendor, and the poetry will be completely lost to you.

In order to appreciate the poetry, you must put yourself in the position of an onlooker, who being able to stand well back, can really see what is happening. It is only from this position that a play or novel can be enjoyed, for here you are free from personal interests. You are only a poet while you are watching or reading, and are not actually involved.

(From a translation by Alan Turney; original Japanese text below.)

He talked about how important it was to see things as an onlooker for dealing with “love”, “faith”, “pain”, etc., being free from your own interest. In this novel, he repeated the phrase “standing as the third person” as well as “being detached” (he distinguished the meaning of these words from “inhuman”), telling how to sublimate emotional issues into art. And I totally agreed with his idea.

As people know, many of his novels actually deal with the emotional relationship between friends, couples, lovers and families. Sometimes, they are very touching and painful but at the same time they always keep some kind of dryness or a objective point of view, I think that this ambivalence or two sidedness is what I care about his work and I would like to apply for my work as well.

Hiroyo Kaneko - from "Sentimental Education" series
Hiroyo Kaneko – from “Sentimental Education” series
JE: I’m sure many people ask you this question, but how hard was it to get your family to agree to be photographed for the bath house series. You could of course have photographed other people at hot springs, but you chose your family. Why?

HK: At first, it wasn’t so hard. I just explained to them how I wanted to photograph in the bath house and they just agreed. I guess it was because they liked going out to hot springs to begin with and they wouldn’t have taken this photo session so seriously. But later, especially my mother became more hesitant to be a naked subject. So I had to make more of an effort to convince her. But they are basically pretty open minded and very helpful in general. I really appreciate their collaboration. Besides, the fact that I live abroad and show the work only in the US makes them less shy.

Initially, I didn’t particularly intend to make the portraits of my family but only to use them as models because I didn’t think that strangers would allow me to photograph them naked. Besides, I needed to demand of them some kind of posing as 1) I used a 4×5 camera and 2) I didn’t want this work to look like a documentary. So asking my family seemed to me the only choice for the situation. However, since then, I started to include their images in my other series also. I think that the more I photograph them, the more I am able to gain an objective and artistic view of them. So it has become less of an obstacle to deal with my family in my work.

JE: Could you tell us about some of the people (photographers or otherwise) that have been important to you, that inspire you?

HK: I am much more influenced by painting than by photography, I suppose. Especially the paintings by French impressionists like Manet and Cezanne (also Renoir and Bonnard too) teach me how I should deal with the natural light and color that are reflected from the subjects. For the way of seeing the relationship between people and family, I also learn a lot from movies by directors such as Mikiko Naruse, Yasujiro Ozu, Howard Hawks, Ingmar Bergman, Manoel de Oliveira, as well as others.

As for photographers, I admire these people: Eugene Atget, Lee Friedlander, Diane Arbus, Stephen Shore, Joel Meyerowitz, Jean-Marc Bustamante, Thomas Struth, Kineo Kuwahara, and Ihei Kimura.

Original Japanese of Soseki quote:



Interview with Masahiro Kodaira

Masahiro Kodaira was born in 1972, and graduated from Tokyo Zokei University in 1997. Kodaira has been pursuing photography since 1994, with several solo and group exhibitions to his name. In addition to his own work, Kodaira has recently been involved in making new prints of the late, renowned avant-garde photographer Kiyoji Otsuji.

In the following interview, conducted earlier this year, Kodaira discusses with Japan Exposures his two major series to date, “Dr. Lorentz’s Butterfly” and “Onbashira”, how he came to photography, and his relationship with Otsuji, a major influence on a number of Japanese photographers. In addition to the photographs represented here, you can also view an extended gallery of Kodaira’s work.

Interview by Yu Hidaka for Japan Exposures.

Japan Exposures: First of all, as a way of introducing you to our readers, I would like to ask you about your solo exhibition entitled “Dr. Lorentz’s Butterfly”, which was held at the AiDEM PHOTO GALLERY SIRius in Tokyo in 2002. For the show, you brought together work done over many years, didn’t you?

Masahiro Kodaira: Yes, “Dr. Lorentz’s Butterfly” was a major outgrowth of many years of work. I had some experience to have my work exhibited before, but this was the first exhibition where I had a clear idea of what I wanted my photography to say. I was looking for the place to show my work that didn’t already have a fixed style or image attached to it. That is to say, not galleries run by camera companies, not small underground types of spaces, and so on. Instead I was looking for a gallery that was open to all genres. Then, I came across an opportunity to try for an open call that was issued by SIRius, and I passed the review.

JE: SIRius has a quite large gallery space compared to other places in Tokyo. How many photographs did you exhibit there?

MK: I showed 30 photographs there. Although usually solo exhibitions held there feature about 45 works, I chose 30 images because I thought the relationship between the works and the white space of the gallery walls important to creating a kind of tension. But after the show, some people told me that fewer photos might have been better for that purpose.

Masahiro Kodaira: From "Dr. Lorentz's Butterfly" series

JE: For me too, as a viewer, I remember that exhibition as the first time I had a clear understanding of your work. When I looked at your photographs, photography’s particular way of representation was readily apparent to me, and I was slightly surprised at this. This was probably the first opportunity for you to highlight this aspect of your work, wasn’t it?

MK: Well, it’s true that I am interested in photography’s form, but strictly speaking, how my works look is not my goal. It’s just an outcome of pursuing what I want to express with my photographs. The particularity of photographic representation just helped me to say it. For example, take the abstract concept of “beauty,” which art can help to make concrete and easy to see and understand. I feel that the photographic form can be an essential tool to express photographers’ message.

JE: What surprised me about your show was that, in a sense, the formalism of your photography seemed too “classical” a way for a photographer to express themselves at that time. Around 2002, when I visited your show, photography of younger photographers rarely focused on formal things like composition. Subject matter, or such things like blurry images or grainy images stood out more in other photographers’ shows. Most photographers seemed to rarely care about photographic composition, and only use those techniques and styles that are popular at that time. Some didn’t know that formalism was one of the crucial means of expression in photography’s history, especially in the modernist period. Maybe this is, in part, a failure of how photography is taught in Japan. But your work is quite different.

MK: For me, art history is important. I think that the situation of young people born in the 1990s is different from that of my own generation. They happen to have been born into an information rich society that’s superficial. Because of that, perhaps they’re interested less in formalism and more in textures or the unexpected, by which I mean taking familiar, everyday objects and shooting them with medium or large format cameras, or in close-up, in order to create a raw “anti-everyday” reality. For those photographs, composition is difficult to create. I think that the fad of shooting 6×6 color film of the last few years represents the desires of both photographers and viewers. In my opinion, I think that the role of art has historically been and continues to be one of solving life’s mystery. I also belong to this history, but I use my awareness of what has been done in the past to forge my own way of art. Photography is also an art of form. I want to grasp the mystery of life with the help of the concepts such as beauty or formal “balance.” Why do people say that something is beautiful, or why do people find balance in something — what do such things mean to us?

In front of me, the world spreads out, uncontrolled by my intentions. I had such a sense when I took these photographs, and wanted to take photographs where the past and the future meets.”

JE: Since art history is important to you, I’d also like to ask you about your own history. I believe that your education at Tokyo Zokei University, where you graduated, and your relationship with Kiyoji Otsuji, were crucial to your development, weren’t they?

MK: Yes, that’s right. Before I entered university I had studied the practical basics of art at a kind of “cram school.” So, I was able to concentrate on photography at university. When I was in my forth year, one of my professors, Kazuto Miura, introduced me to Otsuji-san, who many of my professors had studied under. At that time, he was already retired and pretty much confined to his home, and so some students including me went to visit him and to arrange his negatives in his house.
Masahiro Kodaira: From "Onbashira" series
Whenever I visited him, I always felt like I was visiting my grandfather. I visited his place almost every day for four or five years, before he passed away. What I learned from him is that I should continue to pursue my own way of photography. Like some other photographers who also had close relationships with him often say, I always ask myself, “If he were living now, what would he say about my photographs?” This question is a kind of litmus test for how I think about my own work.

Incidentally, “Dr. Lorentz’s Butterfly” wasn’t the title I originally had, but Otsuji-san pointed out to me that my original title sounded stiff, so I changed it. The day that I decided on “Dr. Lorentz’s Butterfly” was also the day that Otsuji-san passed away, so I wasn’t able to share with him the new title of my show.

JE: What originally triggered your interest in photography?

MK: When I was a kid, I already had an interest in art. The first book I bought when I was a junior high-school student was an anthology by Escher. Then I came across the book by Jung and Wolfgang Pauli called “The Interpretation of Nature and the Psyche.” After reading this book, I felt that I had found a clue as how to articulate in art what had been up until then just vague thoughts.

JE: Does that mean that you were first interested in producing something artistic or cultural in the broad sense, rather than specifically photography?

MK: Well, first of all, I wanted to be a painter, so I thought it would be better for me to study painting. But some friends that I made at the “cram school” were able to paint precisely what they wanted to paint on canvas. In such an environment I realized that it might be difficult for me to be a painter. So, when I entered Zokei I chose to join the department of design and gave up my desire to be a painter. At that time I also had interest in typography and graphic design.

JE: Then you came to photography?

MK: Yes, that’s right. I tool some photography classes, and found that I wanted to pursue photography. When I saw my professor [Akihide] Tamura sensei’s work entitled “Afternoon” at a group exhibition in 1993, I was taken aback, and this work was the trigger for me to start concentrating on photography. I learned a lot from one class in particular. This particular class required me to visit about 100 galleries within a year and to write an essay about each exhibition I attended. Also at this time I was “collecting” photography and art magazines to supplement my studies. When I started studying on photography, I thought it was easy to take photographs. However, when I saw that taking photographs of the world around me was a way to represent myself, I came to realize the profoundity of photography as a medium.

JE: Your next exhibition after “Dr. Lorenz’s Butterfly” was “Onbashira.” I imagine that you had to take some risks to show “Onbashira.”

MK: Well, you know, the show “Onbashira” deals with a festival in Japan*, so quite a few people reacted like, “Why did you take photographs of festivals?” Many people who had visited “Dr. Lorentz’s Butterfly” expressed disappointment and said it would have been better if I had kept the direction of that show. But some photographers also appreciated this exhibition. Although basically I seldom take photographs of people, I wanted to experiment with taking snapshots of people for this series.

Masahiro Kodaira: From "Onbashira" series
JE: Certainly at first glance, this series appears to be different from “Dr. Lorentz’s Butterfly.” For me, as someone who knows your position vis-à-vis the history of formal art and photography, some parts of “Onbashira” seem connected with the conception of the previous show. Both exhibitions show an adventurous pursuit of the possibilities of photographic form. Yet each show is received by viewers as completely different. If people concentrate only on the content of your photographs, there is a danger of them missing the forms that are there for them to discover, though.

MK: It’s easy to miss this aspect of my photography, because they directly represent the past traditions of Japan.

JE: People tend to look only at the surface content of photographs and overlook the aspect of photography as a transformed reality. But such way of looking is not enough. At a festival which is very dynamic, you look at the movement of the world in front of you through your viewfinder and release the shutter.

MK: In front of me, the world spreads out, uncontrolled by my intentions. I had such a sense when I took these photographs, and wanted to take photographs where the past and the future meets.

JE: Finally, could you let us know what you are doing now?

MK: I sometimes do black and white printing, and I had been making new prints of Otsuji’s work for the show called “Jikken-kobo,” (“Experimental Workshop”), which will be held in the UK in this October. I myself am preparing for a solo exhibition called “Tsuzukinokawarini” to be held from June 9 (Tues.) to 15 (Mon.) at the Gekkoso annex KONPARU Gallery in Ginza, Tokyo. Then, if possible I would like to publish a book of my work.

* Onbashira (literally “honored pillar”) is a festival that takes place in Nagano Prefecture once every six years.

Yu HidakaYu Hidaka is an Assistant Professor at Gunma Prefectural Women’s University, where she teaches on visual culture. Her book, Reading Contemporary Photography: Toward Democratic Vistas, will be published by Seikyu-sha this June. She has written on photography and other forms of visual media for various Japanese publications, including Studio Voice and Asahi Camera. She received her MA in the Course of Culture and Representation from Tokyo University.

The multi-dimensional Tokihiro Sato

Tokihiro Sato was born in 1957 in Yamagata Prefecture. He graduated in 1983 with a MFA in sculpture from Tokyo National University of the Arts. He is well known in Japan and in the rest of the world for his exploration of making photographs of landscapes or common spaces using very long exposures. He proceeded to the construction of various kinds of cameras, including a multiple pinhole camera, and their installation in public or generally “vacant” spaces.
Sato Multi-Pinhole camera

Since 1999 he has been an associate professor in the Department of Inter Media Art at the Tokyo National University of the Arts (known also as “Geidai”).

Tokihiro Sato’s work has been exhibited extensively internationally, for example as part of the 1997 6th Havanna Art Biennale and the 9th Asian Art Biennale, Bangladesh (2-person show) in 1999. He is represented by Gallery GAN (Tokyo), Leslie Tonkonow (New York) and Haines Gallery (San Francisco). Solo exhibitions of his work have been held in various locations in Japan and abroad, such as the Sakata City Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Most recently he has been working on a project on the theme of relationships with others as well as since 2000 the Sightseeing Bus Camera Project, where lenses are mounted onto the side of a public sightseeing bus to project the passing scenery onto a screen mounted in the middle of the bus.

In 2005 a book entitled Photo-Respiration was published in English by the Art Institute of Chicago. However, a book with the same title containing a very similar spectrum of work was already published in Japan in 1997 by the Nikkor Club*.

Tokihiro Sato - Shirakami #10, 2008

The Photo-Respiration series is Sato’s most well known work. When we approached him with our request for a cover photo, we were delighted to learn that he has been continuing to work on the series up until now, as the above 2008 image Shirakami #1 illustrates. Photo-respiration consists of two sub-streams, Breathing Light and Breathing Shadows. To make these photographs, Sato opens up the lens on his 8 x 10 camera for an extended exposure, sometimes up to three hours, and subsequently physically enters the scene in front of the frame. In Breathing Shadows a flashlight is pointed at the camera at nighttime or in a darkened space. In Breathing Light he uses a mirror to reflect light back toward the lens by day. In both cases he then moves around in the scene adding streaks or spots of light to the image. Ironically a long exposure of a person becomes a photo without anyone in it, but the viewer infers the person’s presence from the resulting image.

The title Photo-Respiration was chosen, according to Sato, because in the photographs he makes “a direct connection between my breath and the act of tracing out the light.” In his view this has the same significance as in monotonous activities such as long distance running or swimming, when one’s focus is only on breathing. The fact that Sato accommodates the three-dimensional real world by tracing it through his person into the image is often attributed to his training as a sculptor, although naturally the concept of dimensional collapse is part of the medium and a consideration for every photographer.

The resulting photographs have a very timeless and lyrical feel about them and this impression persists even after learning about the technique that was used to create them. In fact, knowing the method of creation adds to the enjoyment of the work. As always, it is the viewer who makes the image once more when facing it and doing so is a delightful moment. Interpretation is tempting, but one should be careful not to jump to quick associations. In an Q&A session, Sato was once asked what the reflections of light “represented” to him: perhaps fireflies, or marching pieces of string? His response was that representation is not his intention. All they represent is where he stood shining the light into the camera.

Tokihiro Sato Triangle-Square-Pentagon The Camera in UbeEven though we refer to Tokihiro Sato here as a photographer, it might be more accurate to speak of a visual artist who is appropriating the medium of photography. The Wandering Camera, for example, demonstrates a strong resemblance to an art installation or a performance which even includes an immediate feedback loop to the audience. Lastly, his award-winning contribution to the 20th Exhibition of Contemporary Japanese Sculpture 2003 is a camera-esque steel sculpture that reflects the outside world on the inside, showing that this artist is more than comfortable to move between the media he chooses to work in.

Please also see Sato’s Cover Photo of the Brooklyn Bridge taken with a multi-pinhole camera, as well as a feature by Stacy Oborn on Sato.

*We have used copies of Sato’s 1997 book, Photo-Respiration, for sale in the bookstore.

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。




Ryoichi Aratani

I saw a a gallery of photos in the underground walkway between Hibiya and Ginza station. Not the most glamourous exhibition space I suppose. Nonetheless, the prints were nice to look at (taken on film, printed digitally as it turned out) and I recommend looking at the website. Might be a little difficult to navigate without understanding Japanese, just click on the photo next to the camera for the series. Oh, and don’t bother with the cats.