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Moscou: The Japanese vanguard


Seven Contemporary Japanese Photographers

Takayuki MAEKAWA
Yasuhiro OGAWA
Shintaro SATO
Toshihiro YASHIRO

What a surprise to see a self-described “classical” gallery open its doors to conceptual Japanese photography. This vast space, usually reserved for immaculate large-format prints of wild countrysides, presents a selection of Japanese photographers in their forties. In this group, supposedly representing the cream of contemporary Eastern photography, we notice a perfectionism, a penchant for refined detail.

Naoki Ishikawa delights in ice, which he tracks across the planet’s most frigid continents: white and blue tones for snow-covered Siberian Huskies, a frozen town, the ocean gnawing away at a glacier… Equally fascinated by the cold, Takayuki Maekawa takes alarmingly intimate portraits polar bears and eagles, although he withdraws to photograph an animal herd that, seen from above, takes the form of an eagle spreading its wings. Even more surprising, he captures a brown bear biting the head off of a freshly caught fish, an image in obvious homage to Goya’s famous painting Saturn Devouring His Son.

Between nature and the city, Yasuhiro is interested in borders. Bridges and boats emerge from the fog as in an Impressionist painting. With Toshihiro Yashiro, we enter the city limits to find a dialectic between the mobile and immobile. By taking long exposures of groups in motion, he produces unusual and distorted shapes, like a flying saucer landing in a schoolyard. By making an urban environment mysterious, he conjures out its disturbing, underlying oddities, invisible to the naked eye.

No less fascinating, Shintaro Sato’s nocturnal cityscapes depict a suburban Tokyo devoid of human presence. The carefully chosen angles make the houses seem like living organisms, waging a secret battle against their neighbors.

The only photographer in the who group to take an interest in the human face is Ken Kitano, with his project “Our Faces.” These are “group portraits” where the subjects, instead of standing side-by-side, have their individual features separated and subsumed into one gigantic collective face. Kitano takes a social or professional organization (Muslims, the Red Guard, etc.) and takes portraits of twenty or so of its members, then afterwards weaves them together. This original approach, wherein the collective takes precedent over the individual, requires hours retouching. Although the concept is intriguing, the result disappoints: despite the layers of faces, we see little depth.

Emmanuel G

Couronne de la terre
Through February 15, 2012

Galerie de Photographie Classique
23 Savvinskaya Naberezhnaya, Bldg. 1.
+7 495-510-7714,

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