Lake Biwa is the biggest lake in Japan and one of the oldest lakes in the world, located about 20 km east of Kyoto, the Japanese old capital. The lake has been deeply related to our daily lives for a longtime. It is a reservoir for more than fourteen million people and we are very conscious of keeping it clean even though industries always threaten its natural gifts like fish, reeds and trees.
I myself, born in Kyoto, have been growing up with water of Lake Biwa. When we think that two-thirds of the human body are made of liquid, it is true that my body is made by Lake Biwa, really MOTHER LAKE for me.
My deep respect and thanks to Lake Biwa penetrate in the pictures. Behind these calm landscapes, I hope that you will find our wisdom and efforts to keep the lake, as it was millions years ago.
CONFESSIONS OF MASKS
Behind the economic success of Japan, there are forgotten people who have been left in mental hospitals. In Japan, more than 200,000 mentally handicapped are still hospitalized even today, some of them have lived there for more than forty years. Their parents cannot support them because they are too old or they are dead. Developments of psychopharmacology can reduce their symptoms but they can hardly help them to leave hospital.
The pictures were taken in 1997 in a mental hospital in Japan. Their daily lives were going on quietly in the hospital. I took their photographs in many aspects for years and they were pleased to have their photographs taken. I hear that most of them are still in the same hospital even today, more than ten years after I took these photographs.
Here I cannot show you their faces to protect their rights. Their existences are hidden from surfaces of our societies and their masks reveal to you their difficulties. Please listen to the voices under their masks.
SORROW IN THE TROPICS
The Natural History Museum Of Paris owns the world’s largest collection of zoological specimens and many of them are well displayed for visitors. We can see all kinds of zoological specimens, especially those from regions once colonized by European countries. A famous French anthropologist published a book called ‘ tristes tropiques’ in which he observed sorrow in the tropics. But in these photographs you could notice ‘tristes tropiques’ really exist in Paris.
The Metro in Paris is a theater. We can see musicians and performers but ordinary people around the world play dramas there. They have never bored me and my camera captured the atmosphere floating there.
My first camera was an OLYMPUS PEN EE that my father bought for me and my younger brother when I was in the fourth grade. Steam locomotives were disappearing in those days, and my brother and I went out with the PEN to take pictures of locomotives on the local lines. Elementary school students didn’t know PEN or have SLR cameras at that time.
In 2002 I happened to find an OLYMPUS FT at a secondhand photo equipment shop. Digital cameras had gained a majority of the market by that time, and one could get high-end SLR film cameras at reasonable prices. I also got a high quality lens, an H.Zuiko Auto-S F1.2 42mm, at the same time, and I often took pictures with this combination in 2003. At first I shot objects like my children’s toys and flowers inside my house. I then began carrying the camera with me in my bag to take pictures of the scenes I encountered outside in my daily life. It was like sketching with my PEN, and I traced my childhood days by taking photos of children’s toys.
These days one can easily make various kinds of images from digital files using photo-editing software like PhotoShop. In the days of film photography however, a camera and a lens had their own character, and pictures made with them were unique. This year I made new prints for this exhibition in my darkroom. Under the red light, with the smell of acetic acid, the images of fifteen years ago emerging in the darkroom brought back the memories of the happy days of my first PEN.
Digitalization is now affecting every aspect of our lives, and many people pass their time sitting in front of computers or manipulating smartphones all day long. Reactions against such trends may bring about a reevaluation of analog devices, which appeal to the senses. The work in a darkroom is a physical act, engaging not only the sense of vision but also that of touch and smell. For the viewer, photographic images are experienced through the sense of vision and stimulate memories which are also deeply related to the five senses. For the artist, the work in the darkroom, being related deeply with physical memories, produces even more vivid images. I hope you, the viewer, will be able to experience this vividness through the images produced by this camera and this lens.
FROZEN SCAPE OF IRELAND
Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle because the North AtlanticCurrent gives it mild weather even in winter. I happened to travel to Ireland in an exceptionally cold winter with snowfall and it was hard driving without winter equipment such as snow tires. In such conditions, I could find tranquility that had been lasting since the mythic days.
This series was inspired by Haruki Murakami's novel 1Q84. In the novel, Tengo was waiting for Aomame on a slide in a deserted playground during the night. I happened to come across the same scene when I walked around a playground nearby with my dog. There was no one but us and a slide, seesaw and swing reflecting light from a mercury lamp in silent darkness.
His novels always contain some kind of fantasy such as two moons in which we might lose the borderline between reality and unreality. In the deserted playground, somehow I felt strange air although there was only one moon. Playgrounds can be found everywhere in our country and I thought they were too common to be a theme for my work. But after this experience, I began to take pictures of playgrounds in my city.
I think Haruki Murakami’s world is so complicated that I can hardly express it in photography but I hope you will find unreality in realty in these pictures of playgrounds.
De Los Caminos En La Habana -From The Streets Of Havana-
I had a chance to stay in Havana, the capital of Cuba, for a few days at the end of April 2016. The original destination of my journey was Ecuador, but I thought I could profit from visit to the Caribbean country on the way. Just one month before this trip, the U.S. president Barack Obama had visited Havana to meet Raul Castro, President of Republic of Cuba, and they had an historical reconciliation.
Cuba was colonized by Spain at the beginning of the 16th century, and sugar and cigar plantations were developed. By the 19th century, Spanish imperialism was declining, and the U.S. emerged to dominate Cuba. Cuba declared independence as a republic at the beginning of the 20th century, but it was essentially a protectorate of the United States. American capital flowed massively into Cuba and dominated every aspect of life there. There were several rebellions and coups d’état in succession, destabilizing the country. In the latter part of the 1940’s Cuba took part in the U.N. and O.A.S. and was recognized internationally. However social instability had been growing internally because the government had no effective policies against the collapse of international sugar market. Fulgencio Batista seized political power in a coup d’état in 1952, suspending the constitution with his dictatorship. This corrupt and dictatorial government was deeply tied to the United States, both politically and economically, and U.S. dominance in Cuba increased. In the 1950’s there were movements against the regime, and after numerous armed conflicts, including guerrilla wars in the mountains, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and their comrades overthrew the Batista regime and established a revolutionary government. They nationalized all private estates and industries, completely eliminated U.S. influence, and developed close relations with the Soviet Union. The U.S. broke off all diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961, and tensions continued for decades. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Cuba lost its support and experienced very difficult times. New policies were established to accept foreign tourists and privatize parts of some industries, but the single-party system was maintained. In the 2000’s Cuba began to accept American tourists, and in 2015 the two countries restored diplomatic relations after 54 years. In March 2016 the U.S. president Barack Obama finally visited Cuba!
I visited Havana just a month after his visit. I was very interested in this small socialist country in the Caribbean that had followed a different path of communism than bigger nations such as the Soviet Union and China. As I hadn’t visited Cuba before 2016, I cannot compare the before and after of the change. I couldn’t go deeply into people’s life in a few days I stayed. As a tourist, I could only see and feel the surfaces of their life. What struck me were the old American automobiles from the 1950’s and children who studied and played in the streets. The children in the streets were not well dressed, but their faces were full of laughter. Although there were some well-restored old automobiles for tourists, I also saw many junkers used in daily life. Colonial architecture and old American cars are icons of Havana and attract many photographers, but even such stereotypic and touristic photographs contain something that reflects the atmosphere of the time and place. We can see the history between the U.S. and Cuba in these images of the people and the town. In the Trump administration, the relationship between the two countries seems to be deteriorating, but of course the people in Havana continue on with their daily lives. In my photographs from April 2016, you can see the historic scenery of Havana as well as the spirit of the people who have endured many difficulties over their long history.