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Young Japanese photography

by Mikiko Kikuta

1. SUPER FLAT Beyond the landscape
There is a new tendency in Japanese culture which is called SUPER FLAT, which is reflected also in the field of photography. Their word SUPER FLAT was created by the Japanese artist TAKASHI MURAKAMI (who is now showing his own work in a personal at the MOCA of Los Angeles). SUPER FLAT is not an easy term to explain. What MURAKAMI refers to is above all the structure of the images. Today, young photographers are not interested in expressing their emotions anymore. For example, in the times of DAIDO MORIYAMA (one of the founders of the photographic movement of the 1960s and '70S "Provoke"), many photographers wanted to express various sentiments and their own intimate feelings – sadness, anger, etc... Now, on the other hand, young photographers look at things from a "flat" or "cool" point of view, that is, without feelings, emotions or poetry. They do not try to reflect their emotions in the landscape around us. In their photography, there is no dramatic landscape; in fact, it may be normal or mundane, because there is no longer any landscape around us. The landscape has lost its history of the earth and its aesthetic sense. It is no longer even chaos. We might say that the landscape has become only "a place". It is all the same or all similar. For example, the landscape of Tokyo: many old houses and apartment blocks have been destroyed, new buildings and motorways are continually being built. Change is extremely fast. There is no longer even the sense of nostalgia that there was. Nobody remembers what there was before anymore. But it isn't important because when you build a city, you don't need nostalgia. There is very little nostalgia or emotions in the people of this city. Rationality, social policies and economic usefulness are more important. Now, we are not trying to bring back emotion. All we can do is look at the place around us and start to build a new ethical sense.

OSAMU KANEMURA (1964 born in Tokyo, Japan)
Looking at his photographs, we might think that there is no need to feel either sadness or hope. "It is true that if I was sad, I could not live in this world." As city is an accumulation of structures. What the artist wants to photograph is the material reality around him.

He has taken a series of photographs of the suburban landscape of Tokyo. The houses are like toys and seem very artificial. There is nothing traditionally Japanese. The artist grew up in the suburbs and so this is his idea of a landscape.

2.KIMURA IHEE (Girly Photography Prize)
In the in the '90s, young Japanese photography was a women's thing. Several books came out about it and many exhibitions were organised. Photography attracted many young female artists trying to build new images of the contemporary world through the use of photography. These artists didn't follow the work of the famous photographers and took no interest in their history or traditions of photography; therefore, their work is in some ways innovative and many young Japanese artists have followed this example.
The main characteristics of this type of photography are:

a) the subject is always something close to the artists, for example: friends, boyfriends, objects from their own homes. There is no interest in the outside world: that which is important is their own "small" world. Now the world has become very wide and virtual and so it is very difficult to really feel alive. We might even say that to feel alive today, we need to impose our own vision onto photographs.

b) The use of very bright colours. Today, in the year 2001, there are very few female artists who continue to be only photographers. But several are looking for the formula with which to develop a new kind of photography. I think they are more interesting now than they were in the past. Furthermore, the Kimura Ihee Prize has now been set up, and it has become an important Prize for new photographers, (organised by ASAHI SHINBUN).

c) Female photographers who belong to this type of research:
Mika Ninagawa
Yurie Nagashima

3.Work In Progress - MIWA YANAGI's new project
Miwa YANAGI presents a new series: My Grandmother. YANAGI asks young girls: "What would you like to be when you are old?".
She creates images from their answers. In April, a personal exhibition of her work was organised in the KODAMA Gallery in Osaka.