Mars has landed in Japan and is best viewed from a beanbag in the annex of The Museum of Kyoto. "Mars, a Photographic exploration" is the worthy headline event at this year's Kyotographie International Photography Festival, which brings together remarkable photos of the red planet, with imagery captured by NASA probes and distilled into photographs by French artist Xavier Barral. Seen together with Shiro Takatani's captivating video installation, this is an exhibition that will be remembered long after the festival finishes mid May.
We live in an age defined and dominated by the image: pictures of ourselves, pictures of our cats, pictures of our cooking. Photographs are everywhere, but not necessarily photography. Kyotographie, now in its second year, aims to bridge that gap by putting photography as an art form and a narrative front and center in the court of the public.
The overarching theme for this year's festival is "Our Environments"; the plural "S" is both telling and accommodating, as the photographic subjects are as diverse as the exhibition sites. Besides Mars, Kyotographie features exotic pets, Nigerian women's hairstyles, French men's hands, Japanese photo books, nuclear power plants and photographs from some of the worst conflict zones in the past 30 years. The venues, many of which are worth a visit anyway, are spread throughout this compact city and include a World Heritage shrine, Kyoto Station, several teahouses and, of course, machiya — those beguiling town houses endemic to Kyoto.