The sixth edition of Kyotographie, Kyoto’s annual celebration of local and international photography, which opens in venues across the city on April 14, is titled “Up.” This year, the collection of exhibitions address France-Japan relations: the 160th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations and the 60th anniversary of Paris and Kyoto’s sister city covenant.
It also coincides with the 50th anniversary of France’s civil unrest in May 1968, one early rallying point in the ongoing campaign for recognizing issues affecting marginalized societal demographics, including students, workers, women and immigrants. In Kyotographie, 15 headlining artists and a number of satellite events, exhibitions and workshops have been assembled for a festival-focused invitation to warm up to, stand up to and rise up to sensitive, generational, social, racial, ethnogeographic and political issues emerging from manifold contemporary photographic perspectives.
Highlights from the international contingent include black-and-white documentations from Claude Dityvon’s (1937-2008) “Mai 1968: La Realite a Reve,” which captured crowd scenes of energy and incitement during France’s pivotal uprisings, oscillating between revolutionary fervor and anarchy. Lauren Greenfield’s Japan premier is marked with her quarter-century inquiry titled “Generation Wealth,” in which she photographed and filmed the lives of the nouveau-riche and others in parts of America, China and Russia who sought to define themselves and their families through the insatiable pursuit of material wealth and fame. Her work is anticipated to have a nostalgic effect for Japanese audiences given this economy’s long burst bubble.
The Japan-based French artist K-narf has been creating an archive of portraits of workers in Japan, including those employed in Kyoto’s Chuo Market, an area that lacks the city’s tourist spotlight but has a distinct district culture that is expected to be lost through eventual industry automation and gentrification. Eighty full-size photos from the “Hatarakimono Project” will be exhibited in Chuo market, while an “inventory exhibition” will show internationally in the next two years, and then again in 2042 when the beauty and pathos of the project will be even more poignant as K-narf’s subjects and their work cultures will likely no longer exist.
Locally sourced works include significant reconsiderations of the neglected careers of Masahisa Fukase and Yukio Nakagawa. Fukase’s (1934-2012) achievements were obscured when a fall in 1992 left him in a coma until he passed away in 2012. He missed the 20-year period during which postwar photography of Japanese artists, including Daido Moriyama and Nobuyoshi Araki, became popular overseas. This year’s London-based re-publication of Fukase’s in-demand 1986 photo-book, “Raven,” and Kyotographie’s exhibition of various series, including abstract works from “Hibi” in which paint was applied to photographic prints, make the argument for Fukase’s rediscovery.
Nakagawa (1918-2012) was an ikebana master and exponent of the Ikenobo school. He collaborated with the celebrated garden designer Mirei Shigemori on ikebana research in the early postwar years and left his tutorial school to pursue avant-gardism. Twisting, pulling apart and mashing flowers, Nakagawa also incorporated unusual materials within his designs and created vases and calligraphy to accompany them. Photography became the preserving medium for his floral experimentalism.
The younger generation of Japanese photographers represented includes Izumi Miyazaki and her colorful and surrealistic selfies, which were originally shared on web forums, before being featured in major French and American magazines. Her forthcoming Kyotographie debut anticipates works of further sophisticated transformations that should place her on a par with her young photographer peers also on display.
Kyotographie 2018: ‘Up’ takes place from April 14-May 13 at various venues in Kyoto. Passport entry for the duration of the event is ¥4,000; a one-day passport is ¥3,000; For more information, visit www.kyotographie.jp/?lang=en.