Art | ART BRIEF

'Nippon Takaine Exhibition'

by Jae Lee

@butterfly.stroke.inc. gallery

Closes on July 25

During the 1990s, photographer Masayuki Yoshinaga published “Nippon Takaine,” a photo-book of Japan’s immigrant minority groups, which has become so popular it is being republished this year.

To celebrate this second publication, @butterfly.stroke.inc. gallery is exhibiting 80 images from “Nippon Takaine,” ranging from a woman in a traditional Indian waitress uniform and a Persian carpet seller with his wares to Mongolian sumo wrestlers in their dormitory. To emphasize the subjects’ ethnic diversity, Yoshinaga has framed each of the images, all of which have been blown up in size, with collages of cuttings from leaflets and magazines, such as advertisements for spice markets and different religious pamphlets.

“I was categorized as a ‘minority’ in the past too,” said Yoshinaga at a recent interview, “I was in Shonen-Yakuza (a juvenile gang) when I was 15. I also had about seven years of experience working as an assistant at a photography studio, so it was only natural for me to start taking pictures of other minorities.”

As a “minority” taking photos of minority groups, however, Yoshinaga, who still retains some of the yakuza demeanor, said: “I could not get my works properly taken seriously as professional photography among Japanese critics.”

Perhaps this is why Yoshinaga moved on from his “minority” work, which has included books on biker gangs, Lolita girls and other subculture scenes in Japan, to what he calls “landscapes,” gritty black and white images of city scenes. It could also be what inspired the aptly named Resist, a small photography school that Yoshinaga established in 2002, with Daido Moriyama as a guest lecturer.

Now taken seriously as a “professional photographer,” revisiting “Nippon Takaine” puts the importance of Yoshinaga’s previous work in the limelight, and it will be interesting to see in what direction his photography will take next.

@butterfly.stroke.inc. gallery is a 3-minute walk from Kachidoki Station (Chuo Line); open 11 a.m.-7 p.m., closed Mon. and holidays. For more information, call 03- 5144- 0330 or visit www.shopbtf.com/at/tenran—100702.html