The "private photography" and its problem
by HIROSE Hisaki (photographer)
The article with the title " The year 2001 -- a presentiment of nationalism" (19. 03. 2001, Asahi Shinbun) treats the current inward-looking-tendency in Japan. The following episodes point out this tendency of introversion: A volunteer of the UN complains that the Japanese young people have little interest and concern in overseas incidents. An investigation of the travel agency JTB also proves "a feeling of fear to go abroad" which exists among young people. According to the assistant professor of Japan Women's University, Natsuko Yoshizawa, the youngsters nowadays perceive only their narrow surroundings as the comfortable zone. In her class of discussion Yoshizawa observes that the students are caught by their subjective experiences and perceptions. Also in their diploma they lack insights into the relation between the society and the individual. Student's paper looks like an autobiography.
After I read this article I must think of the works of the photographers Yurie Nagashima, Mika Ninagawa, and HIROMIX, who won the Kimura Ihei Prize this year. Their winning works are exactly ones, which are created within their narrow surroundings. I think these works are following the photographic trend which has changed after Nobuyoshi Araki had took pictures of the dead face of his wife.
Araki's works until the death of his wife, taken for the journal "The Age of Photography", had focused on what Japan has forgotten during the period of the economical growth. The main theme in the photography of the modern city before Araki was the dynamic transformation of city landscapes, focusing on the buildings made of metal, glass, and concrete, on the artificial beauty of models or on the indifferent faces of big city inhabitants. On the contrary Araki's pictures concentrated on the things that were left by the process of the modernization: towns which stand outside of the developing regions, girls who are not especially beautiful, or the street girls. His works were so to speak postmodern.
But since Araki took the sensational pictures of his wife, onlookers were getting more interested in the private life of the famous photographer.
Corresponding to the onlooker's interest, the "private life" became a main theme for new coming photographers. This change brought about a certain tendency: The revelation of the more famous or the more interesting person's private life is more interesting. Consequently the pictures of young girls private lives are flooding the market. It is natural that photographers like Nagashima, Ninagawa, and HIROMIX appeared and became popular.
However I find it dubious that the creators are only concerned with their narrow surroundings, and that onlookers are only interested in the private life of others. In the article of Asahi Shinbun Masaaki Nishiki says that a society dominated by the inward-looking-tendency and by the disinterest tends to seek for a charisma. Will the history of the early Showa era repeat which started the war without prospects of victory? It was also an epoch, where the literary genre "the private literature" was popular.
Araki's early works seemed to have more critical insights into the modern world. For the Japanese society it will be a touchstone whether the artists represented by the three winners of the Kimura Prize can broaden their horizons to the more universal theme.
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