Friday, August 29, 2008

"I Think Japanese People Should Be More Open"

(Image borrowed from

Japanese photographer Keiichi Nitta is featured in the latest exhibition at the Constant Gallery in Los Angeles. "I Think Japanese People Should Be More Open" runs from September 6-30.

Having lived in New York for six years and now based in Japan, Nitta’s photography has international cultural influences that strives to capture those special moments in time. With Nitta’s experience, he has adopted themes of transcultural notions of beauty, fetishism of fashion and sexuality as well as create photography that is immune to any preconceived contexts or notions. (

For more information, check out the show's website:

Apparently you have to be over 18 to see the show. Niita's photography is certainly interesting, but the title of his show plays into the stereotype of the humble, quiet, homogeneous Japanese. Simple observation certainly reveals that there are plenty of open individuals in Japan. Perhaps Niita is trying to challenge the stereotype as well.

For more information on Keiichi Nitta, and examples of his work, see his own website.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

"Tokyo through the Eyes of Shibuya Shantytown Residents"

(Please excuse the advertisements attached to the film...)

Filmmaker Bob Jaroc recently made this short film dealing with homeless people in Japan. Part of his rationale for the film:

My intentions for the piece were to stay clear of making a patronizing "cry/be angry for the homeless people" thing or a romanticized view of that life. I wanted to distill the experiences of the people who took the time to talk to me and question myself why I ended up going there in search of something to film.

Read more at Boing

Link to "Tokyo through the eyes of Shibuya shantytown residents" on Boing Boing TV

How do you feel about the film? Does it really tell us anything about homeless people in Japan? Is this film visual anthropology? Is it art? If it is art, is it appropriate to use the homeless people in this way? Are food, cigarettes and alcohol adequate compensation? How would you go about making a film on this subject?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Picture Paradise: Asia–Pacific Photography 1840s–1940s

My apologies, dear VAOJ readers, for the few and far between postings over the summer months. This will slowly change as we get closer to the beginning of the new semester and the end of the author's natsubate ("summer fatigue"). Anyway...

Here is an excellent resource for visual anthropologists. The web site is for a photo exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia that is currently running until November. If you find yourself in Canberra, do check it out. For those of us stuck to the air conditioning and computer keyboard, the web site offers much interesting information. In "Themes" there are sections on Japanese photography and ethnographic photography. Here is the description of the exhibition from the web site itself:

This is the first exhibition to survey the history of photography of our region – from India and Sri Lanka, Southeast and East Asia, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands to the west coast of North America. It features pioneer local photographers as well as Europeans working in the region. The exhibition reveals the rich heritage and the many outstanding achievements of the first century of photography in the Asia–Pacific region.

This significant gathering of over four hundred original photographs and albums includes gem-like daguerreotype portraits, mass-produced views and portraits on paper made possible by the revolutionary wet-plate and dry-plate glass negative-positive process, and prints from the modern era of small format film cameras and photojournalism.

Picture Paradise presents works from seventeen public and private collections in Australia, Europe, New Zealand and the United States of America, many never previously loaned or exhibited. The majority of these works are from the National Gallery of Australia’s extensive photography collection and include the rarely seen nearly ten-metre-long Holtermann panorama of Sydney Harbour from 1875.

Link to Picture Paradise:

There is also a publication by Gael Newton that goes along with the exhibition (from which I am borrowing the image at the top of this post).

Friday, August 15, 2008

Is this gesture offensive?

(AP Photo found on Caption reads: A woman poses with a newspaper showing a photo of Spain's Olympic basketball team making slant-eyed gestures while posing for an Olympics publicity photo, in Madrid Wednesday Aug. 13, 2008 . The photo was originally part of a publicity campaign for team sponsor Seur and is being used solely in Spain. The headline translates as 'return to racism'.

Another story that illustrates the visual power of gesture. Yes, gestures differ cross-culturally, but this particular use strikes me as being culturally insensitive at the very least. What do you think?

Spanish player defends controversial photo

Players on Spain's Olympic basketball team defended a photo in an ad showing the players using their fingers to apparently make their eyes look more Chinese.

The photo, which has been running as a newspaper spread in Spain since Friday, shows all 15 players making the gesture on a basketball court adorned with a Chinese dragon. The photo was part of a publicity campaign for team sponsor Seur and is being used only in Spain.

"It was something like supposed to be funny or something but never offensive in any way," Spain's Pau Gasol, center for the Los Angeles Lakers, said. "I'm sorry if anybody thought or took it the wrong way and thought that it was offensive."

Point guard Jose Calderon said the team was responding to a request from the photographer.

"We felt it was something appropriate, and that it would be interpreted as an affectionate gesture," Calderon, who plays for NBA's Toronto Raptors, wrote on his blog. "Without a doubt, some ... press didn't see it that way."

International media criticized the photo. London's Daily Telegraph said Spain's "poor reputation for insensitivity toward racial issues has been further harmed" by the photo.

Read the whole AP story at