The Higashikawa Awards 受賞者

The Overseas Photographer Award

Rosemary LAING
Lives in Sydney, Australia

The Domestic Photographer Award

Lives in Miyagi

The New Photographer Award

Lives in Gunma

The Special Photographer Award

Lives in Iwate

The Hidano Kazuemon Award

OTA Junichi
Lives in Nara

The Jury Committee of the 35th Higashikawa Awards

UENO Osamu <Photo Critic>
KITANO Ken <Photographer>
KURAISHI Shino <Photo Critic, Poet>
SHIBASAKI Tomoka <Novelist>
NAKAMURA Ikuo <Photographer>
NIWA Harumi <Curator, Photo Critic>
HARA Koichi <Art Designer>
MITSUDA Yuri <Art Critic>

Commentary on the Selection of the 35th Higashikawa Photography Awards

Judging of the 35th Higashikawa Photography Awards was held on February 14th, 2019. The nominees this year included 52 for Domestic Photographer Award, 69 for New Photographer Award, 24 for Special Photographer Award, 39 for the Hidano Kazuuemon Award, and 18 for the Overseas Photographer Award. Out of a total of 187 artists, we awarded five through the judging process. We were very happy to see an increase in the number of entries through the cooperation of the nominators, and, in the end, eight judges spent the morning carefully examining photobooks and resources. Our anticipation along with sense of responsibility grows with every year.

As if reflecting this tense atmosphere, the judging for the Domestic Photographer Award was particularly difficult. After repeated discussion and voting, the results were even and no clear conclusion was made. We decided to take a break and move on to the judging of the other awards. After another round of discussion and voting, we chose Lieko Shiga for Domestic Photographer Award. Since receiving the New Photographer Award in 2012, she has gained attention for her series of increasingly powerful exhibitions such as Blind Date. Although one can say it is extraordinary that she was awarded this before her large-scale solo exhibition at Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, her work is a primordial exploration of the images of life and death, jolting the framework of photography and speaking of a great anticipation of a development that goes beyond it. 

The New Photographer Award, a hotly contested award each year, saw a one-on-one battle at the last stage of judging between Ai Iwane and Mari Katayama, with Katayama coming out the winner. Katayama also was awarded for her publishing activities of recent years before her first photobook was published. Her early work made free use of various styles, while her photos that explore the relationship between her own body and the world are provocative and ask questions that re-define the conventional field of photography. 

Special Photographer Award was given to Atsushi Okuyama who has documented the self-contained lifestyle of Benzo Inoue  for over 20 years in Hokkaido. Inoue has spun a meticulous life raising his garden and drawing pictures. Okuyama’s work is full of a tranquil persuasiveness, a polyphony of life and photography born from careful documentation over time. One can say the photographs also connect the pioneering time in the history of Hokkaido, when Inoue was born, with the present. 

The Hidano Kazuuemon Award, which was established in 2010, has seen an increase in the number of nominees each year, suggesting increased awareness of the award. This year too judging and discussion took place over the quality of the award, and, after an exchange of various opinions, the award was given to Junichi Ota, who was born in Nara prefecture and has continually been active in the Kansai region. Ota’s work captures traces of that which are left behind, as if they are liable to be completely forgotten, and landscapes particular to the region slowly become visible. 

For the Overseas Photographer Award, after considering explanations based on the careful research of Aki Kusumoto, Rosemary Laing was chosen from Australia, the country in focus. Based on the theme of landscapes that connote cultural and historical meaning of Australia, Laing’s work is based on poetic imagination and combine installation, performance, and photography. These works are fascinating as they provide the viewer a diversity of interpretations.

As noted before, the judging this time was a challenging process. However, looking at how we came to our decisions, it became clear that the four domestic awards were given to photographers that have become known these past years during judging. In particular, the Domestic and New Photographer Awards, were decided distinctively in the Higashikawa Awards where works are eligible within three years after their first presentation. Also, during the judging process, deep discussions were held over the meaning and positioning of each award. One can say that by sitting around a table and making decisions over discussion, even with differences in opinion, is typical of the judging process of the Higashikawa Awards.

But what kind of award should the Higashikawa Awards be? Background to the intense discussion of the judging panel is the “Declaration of Town of Photography” of 1985 and the hard work of many Higashikawa residents and the shared energy with those around the world since then. Repeated discussions take place in Tokyo while imagining Higashikawa, a place that takes pride in its wonderful natural environment and the photography festival that is held there. Looking back, I believe the judging results this time appropriately represent the 35th holding of this award at this juncture. From now on, together with the people of Higashikawa, we would like to take even one more step forward.

Osamu Ueno
Higashikawa Photography Award Jury Committee