Jury Review / Jury Committee 2018/ archive

Commentary on the Selection of the 34th Higashikawa Photography Awards

Judging of the 34th Higashikawa Photography Awards was held on February 27th, 2018. The nominees this year included 50 for Domestic Photographer Award, 59 for New Photographer Award, 24 for Special Photographer Award, 34 for the Hidano Kazuuemon Award, and 20 for the Overseas Photographer Award. As we wanted more people to nominate artists, we have promoted to expand our list of nominators. These past few years, we have come to choose winners for five awards out of a total of some 160-170 artists. The number of photographs to judge from was in the hundreds, and, as every year, the eight judges spent the morning carefully examining photobooks and portfolios, while judging took place in the afternoon.

  This year, the category that spurred the most debate was the Domestic Photographer Award. From the last remaining candidates, we finally broke the deadlock and chose USHIODA Tokuko. The persuasiveness of her “Views of the Books / BIBLIOTHECA Series”, which she has continued shooting for some 20 years, and which was condensed into her recently published three books, “Images Nostalgiques De L’editeur / Nostalgic Pictures of the Former Misuzu Shobo Publishing Office Building”, “Views of The Books”, “My Teacher’s Atelier” and their publication exhibition, lies in her polished monochrome expression. By photographing the paper medium of books by the paper medium of photography, time and space are interwoven like a labyrinth and an everlasting attraction is brought forth.

  For the New Photographer Award, the artists who made it to the final stage of judging were ISHIKAWA Ryuichi, KATAYAMA Mari, KANAGAWA Shingo, HOSOKURA Mayumi, and YOSHINO Erika. The eventual winner was YOSHINO Erika for her photobook, “NEROLI”, which was a finalist for last year’s award, and the exhibition of that with her new work, “MARBLE” added. The fact that she received more attention even after a year is not only due to the “newness” of her work but also evidence of fascination in her work. While physically embodying orthodox snapshot techniques and yet trying to be as free as possible from them, Yoshino’s gaze is strong, fleeting, and supple, putting a moment and light together and illuminating a unique world.

  The Special Photographer Award went to OHASHI Eiji, a native of Hokkaido who has photographed scenes of vending machines. Vending machines are everywhere in our daily lives, but we don’t usually consciously look at them. But making them the subject of works of art, Ohashi gives us a fresh view of vending machines. The image of a vending machine in the snow is especially impressive, and it seems it is the kind of motif that only Ohashi could have found, who was from Hokkaido. Compiled in his photobooks, “Roadside Lights” and “Being there”, these images of vending machines are somehow nostalgic and are narratives of Japanese society and culture.

  The Hidano Kazuuemon Award, which was established in 2010, saw a sudden increase in nominees and competition has become fierce as the award becomes better known. Although it’s a new award and we debate the quality of the award each year, the award this year went to TOMIOKA Keiso, who has used fixed point photography to shoot Tokyo since its post-war devastation. Fixed point photography, which has been continued by the second generation TOMIOKA Keiso and TOMIOKA Michiko and the third generation of TOMIOKA Keiso and UZAWA Tamami, is an astonishing work with the process of recording which has been increasing in depth and breadth. It also embodies the spirit of this award as it is “For those who continued photographing a region’s people, nature, culture, and so on over many years, and were recognized to have contributed to the region.”

  With explanations based on the careful survey of juror KUSUMOTO Aki provided, the Overseas Photographer Award was given to Marian Penner Bancroft from Vancouver, Canada, the country targeted this year. Bancroft has a unique form of expression originating from personal experience and family history as she explores the meaning of immigration history in Canada as well as sacred areas and territories of First Nations in her photographic series. Recently, she has taken a close-up of familiar but originally non-native plants in her series, “radial systems”.

  This year, as with last, the awards were decided not by unanimous consent or a large majority of ballots but by sitting around a round table and repeating the voting while exchanging opinions from various perspectives and debating. Last year saw three new judges and this year there were two, making a total of five new judges out of eight in the last two years. Although there was not always consensus, this Higashikawa Award judging style of traditionally deciding through healthy debate has properly continued. During the 30 some odd years since the 1985 “Town of Photography Declaration,” I feel this framework for judging has progressed step-by-step through the support and efforts of the people of Higashikawa and always have a deep appreciation for this. Appropriate to the “Capital of Photography Culture,” we can be proud that the judging has managed to choose wonderful artists. Along with the awarded artists and the people of Higashikawa, we would like to take even one more step forward.

Osamu Ueno
Higashikawa Photography Award Jury Committee

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