The Higashikawa Awards 受賞者

The Overseas Photographer Award

Lives in Marseille, France

The Domestic Photographer Award

Lives in Okinawa Prefecture

The New Photographer Award

Lives in Tokyo Prefecture

The Special Photographer Award

101 Group Photography Project in Hokkaido

The Hidano Kazuemon Award

Lives in Chiba Prefecture

The Jury Committee of the 40th Higashikawa Awards

Anju <Photographer>
UENO Osamu <Photo Critic>
KAMIYAMA Ryoko <Curator, Japanese postwar art history >
KITANO Ken <Photographer>
KOHARA Masashi <Curator / Associate professor at Tokyo Polytechnic University>
SHIBASAKI Tomoka <Novelist>
NIWA Harumi <Curator, Photo Critic>
HARA Koichi <Art Designer>

Commentary on the Selection of the 40th Higashikawa Photography Awards

       Selection of the 40th Town of Photography Higashikawa Awards was carried out on February 21, 2024. Those nominated this year include 57 photographers for the Domestic Photographer Award, 64 for the New Photographer Award, 24 for the Special Photographer Award, 51 for the Hidano Kazuemon Award, and 13 for the Overseas Photographer Award. As with previous years, the morning was spent carefully looking at photobooks and resources, while the winners of the five awards were selected by eight jurors in the afternoon from a total of 182 artists.

       The Domestic Photographer Award was given to Mao Ishikawa, who has continued her robust artistic activities based in Okinawa. The exhibition at Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery, primarily showcasing new works from the ongoing Great Ryukyu Photo Scroll series since 2014, along with major works from the early period, highlighted the originality of her creative photography that is born while nurturing trusting relationships with her subjects. From the early days to the present, a clear question that has consistently characterized Ishikawa’s photographic expression is “What can I do?” This rare combination of originality and consistency was highly praised.

       The New Photographer Award was narrowed down to Shingo Kanagawa, Mika Kan, Nozomi Suzuki, Kazuna Taguchi, Sōhei Nishino, and Shiho Yoshida. At the final stage, Shingo Kanagawa, Mika Kan, and Sōhei Nishino were left standing, and ultimately Shingo Kanagawa was selected for the award. Mr. Kanagawa’s works, in which he closely interacts with his father who repeatedly disappears and his aunt whose whereabouts have been unknown for more than 20 years, through photographs and writings, quietly shake up the conventional relationships of seeing/being seen and photographing/being photographed. It can be said that the deciding factor was the ever-deepening questions and the new possibilities for photographic expression that emerged from them. 

       The Special Photographer Award was given to the activities of the Hokkaido 101 Group Photography Project. Hokkaido 101 was an anonymous movement in which over 600 university students participated, conducted by the Federation of Japan University Photo Club between 1968 and 1977. Although it remained incomplete, with neither a compiled photo album nor an exhibition, recent progress in the collection and preservation of photographs and materials led to its recognition and award this time. The conditions of the Special Photographer Award specify “artists residing in or originating from Hokkaido, or artists who have photographed themes or subjects related to Hokkaido.” Who exactly are the artists implicitly defined here? The awarding of the Hokkaido 101 Group Photography Project is sure to provoke this question, spanning half a century and challenging the present.

       The Hidano Kazuuemon Award was given to Kazuo Kitai. Kitai’s work, which has continuously captured the lives and everyday scenes of ordinary people such as in villages and towns, perfectly fits the criteria of the award, which targets work focused on “photographing the people, nature, and culture of a region over many years.” The exhibition in Funabashi City, the location where the Funabashi Story was photographed between 1983 and 1987, also served to highlight Kitai’s photographs as irreplaceable records and memories of the citizens of Funabashi. This undoubtedly demonstrates another provision of the same award, that of “contributions to a region.”

       The Overseas Artist Award was given to Vasantha Yogananthan from France after careful consideration based on Mikiko Kikuta’s research and explanation. Yogananthan has been developing a long-term project titled A Myth of Two Souls, retelling the ancient Indian epic, Ramayana, in a contemporary manner and creating a photographic series for each chapter. His work, which incorporates not only photographs but also illustrations, traditional Indian coloring, and locally specific imagery, was highly praised.

       The COVID-19 pandemic, which worsened after the 2020 judging, has come to a temporary pause, and this year’s judging has finally returned to normal, coincidentally marking the 40th anniversary of the judging. I believe that 40 years is a sufficiently long period to invoke the words “history” and “tradition,” but this history and tradition have also been nurtured by constant innovation. What innovations should the Higashikawa Award pursue to further develop? I think this year’s judging reflects more or less such thoughts. From the “Declaration of the Town of Photography” in 1985 to the “Declaration of the Photography Culture Capital” in 2014, and up to the present, driven by the tremendous efforts of people in towns who sympathized with its spirit and the empathy of people worldwide, I hope we will take a new step forward.

Osamu Ueno
Higashikawa Photography Award Jury Committee