Saturday, October 6, 2012

"Power shot / Examining the works of Kishin Shinoyama"

Images borrowed from SHINOYAMAKISHIN.JP.

Story from The Daily Yomiuri Online, 10/5/12:

A photography exhibition featuring works by Kishin Shinoyama, who has spent his career on the cutting edge of photography, recently opened at the Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo.

THE PEOPLE by KISHIN, which focuses on "the power of photography," has about 120 portraits taken over the last 50 years covering a variety of themes.

The exhibit features huge photos, including a 3.4-meter by 3.4-meter portrait of the late actress Reiko Ohara and a 7-meter-wide picture of kabuki female role-player Bando Tamasaburo.

"Everyone will be surprised [at the power of the oversized photos]. Even I'm surprised," Shinoyama said before the opening.

Shinoyama, 71, has captured shining moments of showbiz personalities who added color to their times and witnessed the scenes that engaged people's imagination. His photos distill the essence of his subjects, conveying their refined beauty or their literally naked power.

The photos on display are definitive images spanning half a century, with Shinoyama capturing "the moment the god of photography descended."

Some of them, such as those of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, pop singer Momoe Yamaguchi, novelist Yukio Mishima, actresses Sayuri Yoshinaga and Rie Miyazawa and all-girl idol group AKB48 are dramatically enlarged.

Blowing up the photos takes advantage of the generous exhibition space to best show the impact of the photos.

The exhibition was first held at the Contemporary Art Museum, Kumamoto, from the end of June through mid-September and attracted more than 30,000 people.

As the Tokyo venue is more spacious and has higher ceilings than the Kumamoto museum, the Tokyo exhibition will give audiences a better opportunity to experience the powerful energy inherent in the photos. After Tokyo, it will move to Hiroshima Prefecture and Niigata and run through March 2014.

The pictures are separated into five categories--GOD (The deceased), STAR (Celebrities), SPECTACLE (Dream worlds that take us to another dimension), BODY (The body undressed--beauty, eroticism, struggle) and ACCIDENTS (March 11, 2011--Portraits of victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake).


The power of photography

Asked about what makes a powerful photograph, Shinoyama said, "It's a photo with the potential of having a strong impact on the subject, the photographer and the viewers in a way that transcends space-time, truth or falsehoods, and so on."

As to how to take a powerful photo, he said: "A photographer should respect the subject and not have a condescending or flattering attitude. The photographer must correctly read the atmosphere and create a relaxing environment. Their senses should be heightened to the maximum before pressing the shutter button."

Shinoyama, when asked how to nurture such power, replied: "Listen to good music, watch plays, travel when you feel like it, associate with good friends, eat tasty foods...Anything will do. Nurture a sensibility that makes you want to react strongly when you meet good subjects and shoot them."

Meanwhile, THE PEOPLE by KISHIN is a new challenge.

"This series of shows is the first large-scale exhibition for me in public museums in Japan. I feel that photographs are alive, so they are not suitable for display in a museum. I thought of such a display as 'a grave for my work,'" he said.

"But when trying to prepare the exhibition in a way that the photos would engage viewers, I felt the exhibition breathed a new life into my work. I was moved to discover that. My photos have always been for publications, so it was the first time for me to see such huge prints," he added.

In the exhibit, photos of celebrities occupy a large amount of space.

"I pay attention to the atmosphere of the times and follow the demand for stars of the era. For example, Momoe Yamaguchi in the 1970s, Seiko Matsuda in the 1980s and currently AKB48. So viewers become emotionally involved in the photo subjects and think back nostalgically about that time," he said.

Shinoyama does not like his exhibition referred to as a "retrospective."

"I always move in a positive direction and remain curious. Through this exhibition I want to keep an open mind to taking on new challenges," he said.

"THE PEOPLE by KISHIN" through Dec. 24 at the Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo. Open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays). Last entry 30 minutes before closing. Closed on Mondays. If Monday is a public holiday, the museum will be open that day and be closed the following Tuesday. (Open Oct. 8 and Dec. 24, closed Oct. 9). The nearest station is Hatsudai Station on Keioshinsen line. Admission: 1,000 yen for adults; 800 yen for university and high school students; 600 yen for middle and primary school students; 500 yen for those aged 65 and older. For more information, call the gallery at (03) 5353-0756.


Kishin's website (in Japanese):

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