I have known Takashi-san since my Japan days, and since March 11th 2012, when the Great East Japan earthquake struck, both Takashi and I have in our own ways and through our own photography photographed the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the consequences of it for large swathes of Japan and the population. In the below video, which sadly only records the first half of the talk, we discuss our respective works and photographs.
From the Street Level Photoworks announcement of the show:
We are pleased to announce that Takashi Arai will give a slide talk on his work at Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow, in association with Alternative Photography Scotland. Tokyo-based artist Takashi Arai is well-known as a unique contemporary daguerreotypist in Japan. His work is not meant to showcase the object being depicted, but instead the medium of photography itself.
Takashi Arai first encountered photography while he was a university student of biology. In an effort to trace photography to its origins, he encountered daguerreotype, and after much trial and error mastered the complex technique. Arai does not see daguerreotype as a nostalgic reproduction of a classical method; instead, he has made it his own personal medium, finding it a reliable device for storing memory that is far better for recording and transmitting interactions with his subjects than modern photography.
Beginning in 2010, when he first became interested in nuclear issues, Arai has used the daguerreotype technique to create individual records-micro-monuments-of his encounters with surviving crew members, and the salvaged hull, of the fallout-contaminated Daigo Fukuryumaru fishing boat, records that touch upon the fragmented reality of events in the past. This project led him to photograph the deeply interconnected subjects of Fukushima, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki.
Arai’s work has appeared in numerous exhibitions and in 2014, he received the Source-Cord Prize, sponsored by Source Magazine.
A small selection of some recent tear sheets for your delectation. It’s always pleasurable as a photographer to see your work in print, to smell the ink and see how the work has been laid out, to see the design of the magazine spread, to see if the designer has used it well, or cropped it badly…
The following portrait, of Professor Lorna Dawson of the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland, was shot by me recently on assignment for Nature Magazine. Prof. Dawson is a world leading expert of the forensic analysis of soil DNA, and along with her team she brings her formidable talents and knowledge to bare in helping crack crime cases round the world. Soil Sleuth indeed, and a very hospitable and friendly woman to hang out with on assignment. I great enjoyed this assignment on a gloriously sunny Monday morning in Aberdeen. You can read the article about Professor Lorna Dawson, ‘Soil Sleuth’, here in Nature magazine.
And the most colourful for last, a portrait photograph below from a few years back that I shot on assignment (originally for The Times newspaper) in Tokyo, Japan, of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. I had the pleasure and privilege to photograph Kusama-san’s twice in her Tokyo studio, and this portrait used this month/week on the cover of The Art Newspaper comes from the second time I met her. As you can see she is quite individual, and a fascinating character to listen to and to photograph. Again a very enjoyable assignment, and nice to see the image pop up unexpectedly this week in the paper, sold via agents Getty Images. See a full set of photographs of portraits of Yayoi Kusama, and her work, here.
Thanks for taking a look, and as ever should you wish to licence any of these photographs, or if you’re looking to have something specific photographed then please get in touch! Thanks!
The title of the article, ‘Found in Translation’, made me smile a wry smile. Ever since Sofia Coppola brought out her hit movie ‘Lost In Translation‘ sub-editors throughout the land have borrowed and twisted the title to describe Japanese articles. This is at least the third article my pictures have been in which has the ‘Found In Translation‘ rift of the title. Sub editors gotta try harder to be original!
I had given permission for some of my images of Shoko Tendo, author, and daughter of a now deceased yakuza boss, to be used. I had first photographed Shoko Tendo, and her entire body full of tattoos on an editorial assignment for The Guardian, with journalist Justin McCurry, then shot again for Marie Claire Magazine. They proved to be a popular set of images, although I can never decide which part of the sentence ‘naked girl with yakuza tattoos’ draws in the attention…
Today I got an email from the publisher Manami-san and she tells me that the book has almost sold out now. Printed in a run of 3,000 Manami now only holds the last 10 or so copies that she had. Great news to hear of a photo book selling so well, and congratulations to Manami-san for producing a book which, even to non-tattooed folks, is a fascinating read, and with some beautiful images, both contemporary and historical. If anyone is interested in getting hold of a copy of the book, drop me a line, I can put you in touch with Manami-san, or try online.
Here’s the cover, and two of the spreads from my section in the book…Hope you enjoy it.