What common thread runs through the images in your series Going Blank Again?
The photographs in the series are all landscapes shot on the outskirts
of Tokyo and other Japanese cities, with no one in them, and always with
an empty foreground.
What unites these images is the feeling of absence or loss that you can
feel in a landscape. I would probably say that’s the real subject of
Loss is a subject that has long been addressed by many artists and
photographers: Going Blank Again
fits into this pattern as a reflection
of modern Japan.
You live in Tokyo. The landscapes you shoot contrast sharply with the
densely-built megalopolis. Where are they located? Do you stumble upon
them by chance, or are they researched?
A few years back, I moved out of central Tokyo to the suburbs. After the
move, I started to photograph my day-to-day surroundings with a digital
camera. As I was shooting, I gradually identified the common thread we
were discussing earlier, and the series became obvious. I then started
using Google Earth to spot fields around Tokyo that could be reached by
The history of Japanese photography includes a tradition of “stray”
photography in which the photographer, like a dog, wanders around and
Another approach of photography focuses on a concept, theme and so on:
it’s a form of photography that’s more intellectualised upstream of the
Both styles may seem incompatible, but I’m interested in both.
Are you interested in the history of these patches of land, the
reasons for their change? Do you go back there to monitor and document
I’m actually not really interested in the documentary dimension.
Architectural styles are very similar across the whole of Japan, apart
from Hokkaido. All recent Japanese cities look very much alike, so
changes in the landscape are not really evident. In the suburbs, where I
take my pictures, there’s always a big supermarket; on Sundays, a long
queue of cars forms in front. The same phenomenon occurs all over the
world, or almost. These aspects do not interest me; I’m also not trying
to criticize the current look of suburbia. I’m not trying to create a
record of archetypal suburban landscapes: what I’m looking for is a more
discreet, intimate landscape.
The title of your series - Going Blank Again - suggests
notions of emptiness. Is confronting these landscapes also a way for you
to clear your mind, to “let go”? In other words, is your quest for
minimalist, unpolished territories a way to find a space for you to
project your inner world onto?
I really try not to think about the complicated aspects of life, like
children (although kids probably do!). It’s true to say that my desire
to escape drives my photographic work. In the suburbs of Tokyo or other
cities, there are few landscapes that inspire abandonment. This is my
artistic quest: the search for emptiness in landscape.
And yes, it’s true that artists always project their inner world in
their work. I choose to photograph a landscape because it triggers
something in me when I see it, and then there’s always what you discover
after shooting, the chance element that makes a medium such as
photography so rich.
What I perceive - or not - in a landscape is connected to my personal
history. I started Going Blank Again
at the same time as another series,
. What underlies both is the loss of a forest that
bordered the house in Yokohama (a suburb of Tokyo) where I lived as a
child: it was what connected the outside world to my inner world. Around
the time when I started elementary school, the forest was razed to make
way for a road. I grew up watching this destruction process. Time has
passed since these days, but I know that when I’m out there looking for
an empty landscape on the outskirts of a big city, I sometimes
superimpose the real landscape in front of me and the one in my mind.
A camera captures nothing more than the light: it is an illusion on a
flat paper surface. I’m aware of the medium’s limitations, but even so,
photography is what allows me to restore a form of intimacy with the
Image after image, I am reconstructing a lost world. And that’s why I continue to photograph.
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