Category Archives: Gallery

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

Takehiko Nakafuji Gallery

Normally I don’t feel like taking photo book titles too seriously, but in this case I was not really sure whether my understanding of the word to ramble was correct. Indeed, it can be interpreted as talking a long walk for pleasure or to walk or go from one place to another place without a specific goal, clear purpose, or direction.

I also have spent many hours, if not days, taking long walks in various Japanese cities taking photographs. The photo walk is a common activity and popular in Japan. The goal was to take photos of people in the streets going on about their daily business. Taking photos this way is surely pleasurable and even more so it is to find that you have taken interesting photographs that are worth showing to others. You go into the darkroom or work on the computer and do your processing, crank up contrast and the intensity of your pictures. You think of the next place that you could go or travel to, to take more photos. But the thought that keeps lingering in my mind is the second meaning of the ramble. The lack of goal, purpose or direction. Not that these are necessary all of the time. Still, it somewhat leaves a void and the thought that perhaps the rambler is not privileged, but condemned to ramble, and the photographs may bear witness to this.

Takehiko Nakafuji has been traveling the world and documenting it for nearly 20 years. The following photographs come from his latest work, STREET RAMBLER, which sees Nakafuji in such diverse places as Cuba, New York, Paris, Russia, Shanghai, Berlin, and his native Tokyo.

STREET RAMBLER is available in the Japan Exposures Book Shop.

Shinya Arimoto Gallery

To me, the recent use of the term street photographer is similar to calling oneself artist or art photographer with an intention to add artificial value. I don’t think any respectable practitioner worth their salt would proclaim themselves with this title in this day and age. Nonetheless it appears that it is often banded around, especially on the social interwebs, with an intention to gain credibility or cool the same way teenagers would display branded clothes or gear to gain attention from peers or lowly outsiders.

Photographing strangers in public is neither new, nor does it deserve our increased attention or respect, especially when it is obvious that the photographer has no real interest in the subject except as a means to get the next best 15 seconds of fame and bizarrely unreal looking decisive moment. What Shinya Arimoto is presenting here could not be more different. The photos show that an interaction between photographer and subject must have taken place before and during which the photographs were made. Arimoto does not steal the moment while passing a subject and never shall the two meet again; instead he engages on a fair exchange, respectful and sustainable so that an ensuing photographic encounter would not appear unreasonable to either side.

Please also see this interview with the photographer by photographer John Sypal.

Masako Miyazaki Gallery

Japan Exposures is pleased to present a gallery of work from Masako Miyazaki, drawn from her series “The Other Side”. Writes Japan Exposures’ editor Dirk Rösler in his review of Miyazak’s photobook:

Miyazaki’s photographs represent just some of the things that Japanese Photography are for me; a quiet yet strong undercurrent of expression that does not present itself to the viewer too easily and besides sensitivity requires patience. At the same time there is an element of child-like honesty and innocence that make the images more than simple documents of localities; we are being offered access to someone else’s inner self as a companion or visitor, just close enough to share some personal time together and not too close to offend or invade the privacy of our host.

The above work is taken from Miyazaki’s series The Other Side, which was published in a book from Tosei-sha in late 2011, available as signed copies in the Japan Exposures bookstore.

Harumichi Saito Gallery

A particular school of photographers pursues the art of being invisible around their subjects. In fact, many have modified or purpose-built camera equipment that tricks the subject into thinking that they are not being photographed. Often the reason of achieving objectivity, almost divine-like obligation or commandment, is stated, as if to say “once my presence influences the photograph, it has lost its value as a document”. Just thinking and typing this, I feel antiquated, as if I was someone from a bygone age. While we know by now that this isn’t true, there is more to this. That’s because it sounds like an excuse, a reason to avoid engagement with the subject. Much recent diaristic photography has shot over target by not even choosing an external subject. Instead, it seems all about a Godot-esque dialogue of the photographer with her super-ego. Childhood traumas or other emotional distresses in the biography are stated as the reasons. We seem to grant the excuse willingly – but why?

Photography is all about the engagement with your subject (or absence thereof). Period. Most often life becomes the most fulfilling when engaging with those around you. Relations, friends, companions, strangers, outsiders, freaks. Diane Arbus was known for the merciless depiction of her subjects, but you cannot deny her honest engagement with them.

Wheelchairs are an eye-catching photographic subject, but let us resist the temptation to be misled down the disabled = different people path. What if these are simply Harumichi Saito’s circle of friends and not some protagonists in a photographic project? Almost all of the photos in the gallery show people in them, and if you bother spending the time you realise that these are not just grabshots of interesting compositions or scenes with a person with only one leg that attract attention. There is engagement, and it is genuine interest, a dialog from behind the camera, with a sense of normality and mutual trust. It makes you wonder why anyone bothers seeking cold and impartial objectivity, except for purely selfish reasons.

The above work is taken from Saito’s series KANDO, which has now been published in a new book from Akaaka Arts Publishing, available in the Japan Exposures bookstore.

Shintaro Sato – Risen in the East Gallery

The term Tokyo Tower is familiar to many (not least due to being featured prominently in the legendary Godzilla movies), but mentioning Sky Tree to anyone outside Japan will probably get you blank stares. The Tokyo Sky Tree, formerly known as New Tokyo Tower, is a broadcasting, restaurant and observation tower under construction in Sumida, Tokyo, Japan. It has been the tallest artificial structure in Japan since 2010. The tower reached its full height of 634.0 metres (2,080 ft) in March 2011.

Our friend Shintaro Sato, born and raised in East Tokyo where the tower is located, has followed and documented the construction of the tower over the last few years. Initially he was simply documenting the progress of construction, but later Sato changed his approach to creating panaromics, often from slightly elevated positions like in his Tokyo Twilight Zone work. This work has now been collected into the book Risen in the East, published this month.

Sato succeeds in showing us the many views in the city that now incorporate the structure in the landscape. East Tokyo, the heart of the old Edo, was often seen as slightly neglected and lagging in terms of development. The tower was seen as an opportunity to support this wide area. As the images show, you can now be in the east and Sky Tree will always be with you, like a beacon that sends out strength and self-confidence, no matter whether you are playing football, enjoy your cherry blossom viewing or boat races, as some of the photos show.

Naturally, the tower project was conceived to manifest a symbol of the power and ingenuity of Japan, especially in light of rapid developments in neighbouring China. One cannot help to notice the other side of the coin: in the same week that Tokyo Sky Tree reached its full height as the tallest tower structure in the world, the country that was so eager to show its potency to us was struck by a monumental natural disaster with many consequences, as if to say “the higher you are flying, the deeper you shall fall”. It seems at least to me, that the view towards the tower has become more meaningful since. It is now more about us, the viewers on the ground, and less about the people who planned and executed this amazing feat of creating this man-made structure. All in all, a conundrum that seems typically Japanese.

Kazuyasu Matsui Gallery

Last year marked the 20th annual “New Cosmos of Photography”, a competition started in 1991 by Canon Camera in an effort to identify young, emerging photographic artists deserving of our attention. Judged by a combination of working photographers and critics (Nobuyoshi Araki, Daido Moriyama, and Kotaro Iizawa are among those who have judged the competition in the past), this year saw 25 award winners from among 1,276 entrants in a competition judged by photographers Katsumi Omori, Masafumi Sanai, and Mika Ninagawa, and critics Minoru Shimizu and Noi Sawaragi (each judge chooses one Excellent Award winner and five Honorable Mentions).

The following gallery of images from Kazuyasu Matsui’s Paradise☆INGA (one of Omori’s Honorable Mention picks) is our third gallery from the 2010 competition.

“Every day, in the area of the small town in the mountains where I live, I take photographs while going about my job as a milkman. On my days off, I head deeper into the mountains or to the sea, camping or sleeping in my car, and taking photos. When I’m shooting, it often feels like those days when I was in grade school, and enjoying summer vacation just playing out in nature. “If only every day could be like summer vacation,” I think to myself. Shooting photographs gives me that kind of feeling, and I end up choosing photographs that show more than I have aimed for.”

— Kazuyasu Matsui

Emi Fukuyama Gallery

Introduction by Dan Abbe for Japan Exposures

When you first see Emi Fukuyama’s work, you may ask yourself: “what’s going on here?” Nothing much is ever really happening in the places that Emi photographs, so you could say her work is quiet. But she doesn’t belong with topographic photographers or anything banal. Her photos are vague rather than just simple. As unremarkable as the things she photographs may be, she draws you in by making it difficult for you to see them clearly. This creates a tension running through her work which hints at something more interesting happening here.

Emi’s work is visually slippery. She prints with very low contrast, so nothing jumps out at you, not that there are many eye-catching subjects here to begin with. Still, there is something consistent in the series: your view of the photo’s subject is almost always blocked by something out of focus in the foreground. Someone with an MFA might talk about how this technique is meant to “subvert” conventional “modes” of photographic understanding, but I really don’t think there’s too much to be read here–by now Emi must think no harder about this way of shooting than about her own handwriting. As a viewer, though, it’s strange to be consistently denied a clear view of what you feel you’re supposed to be looking at.

These obstructions provide the tension that holds this work together. It gives me the impression that at a very basic level, she’s not actually trying to show you the thing she’s looking at, but to show you the way that she’s looking at it. If the foreground often becomes a sort of distraction, this might be a kind of honesty on Emi’s part, to show her own unwillingness to look at (and later present) things so simply. In the text accompanying her book, Emi describes a recurring childhood trauma in which she was unable to go to sleep for fear that the world would disappear if she did. So, what is going on here? Maybe Emi’s photographs are an attempt to faithfully trap her own view of things, keeping them from fading away. But I really can’t say, and that’s what keeps me interested.

Please also see our review of Fukuyama’s photobook, The Moon, Following Me.