Feature: Osamu Kanemura

Meeting the Japanese Photographer who Hated Tokyo

image: Erin Cross. Tokyo, 2017

It’s been a month since I left Manila, but I haven’t really braved Tokyo again to shoot new photographs. I’ve been blaming the gloomy weather but was aware, too, that I needed to jump out of my blankets soon. So right after my afternoon class last Tuesday, I headed to my usual train line, but I took the opposite route: I was bound from Kichijōji Station to Ochanomizu Station.
マニラから離れて一ヶ月ですが、まだ東京の写真を撮る気分にはなりません。天気のせいにしていたけど、もうそろそろベッドから起きて、出るしかありませんね。火曜日の授業が終わると、いつもの駅に行ってたけど今日はいつもと違う方向へ向かった。吉祥寺から御茶ノ水へ。

Unaware of what was really going to happen, I tagged along with my colleagues to an alternative space called The White. There, half of the stark walled room was covered in black & white photo prints. I was inches away from them, but even without examining as much, already I felt how each picture had a story to tell. And I couldn’t wait to know more about what was right in front of me.
何が起こるのかと想像できなかった私は、仲間と一緒に「The White」という場所に向かった。そこには、真っ白な壁の半分以上にモノクローム写真が付いていた。少し離れたところから見ても1枚1枚はっきりしないそれぞれの写真は、きちんとしたストーリーがあると気づいた。これを見ると、もっと知りたくなった。

Inside the room were Osamu Kanemura: the man of the hour, his partner 小松浩子 (Hiroko Komatsu), and protege Yusuke Inoue. His sunglasses dimmed his eyes, which added anonymity and attitude to the gritty photographs plastered behind him. He put on a gray coat, which perfectly suited the atmosphere’s monochrome vibe. After a short setup and without much ado, we started the shoot. I was assigned to take behind-the-scene snaps and videos, so I was constantly looking for details that the others didn’t pay attention for during the shoot. Looking back, I think I found more than I searched for.
部屋の中にいた3人は金村修、小松浩子、と金村さんの弟子、井上yusukeでした。付けていたサングラスは彼の目を隠し、後ろにある写真はさらに荒く見えた。着ているグレーコートはモノクロ写真をより引き立たせた。インタビューの準備をし始めた。私の仕事はインタビューでは知りえない部分を撮ること。いっぱい見つけた。

The interview is primarily intended for Kanemura’s recently launched website, which is why I won’t be going into all the details of his Q&A that evening. However, while focusing on his displayed work, which he aptly calls System Crash for Hi-Fi, I’ll also be highlighting some things that he said that pretty much sums up his intent with photography. I find his style visually and intellectually compelling for me for a number of reasons:
金村さんの新ウェブサイトのためにインタビューをしに行った。その内容はまだ教えられませんが、展示会をしていた「System Crash for Hi-Fi」について彼が語ったことを纏めれば、彼のフォトグラファーの意図が分かってきた。金村さんのフォトグラファースタイルは私を注目せずにはいられなかった。

To Erase Is Mirth
消滅と陽気

One, which is probably the most transparent factor, is that it was shot using traditional black & white films — something which I’ve been meaning to religiously go back to again. I was drawn into how each photograph was manually “tortured” using darkroom chemicals. Kanemura shared how and why he likes deleting what he shoots, which could be taken pretty much literally, as he intentionally smothers his images into distorted realities.
① 一番分かりやすいポイントは、彼はモノクロフィルムを使用しているということ。これを見ると、私もモノクロフィルムを使いたくなった。全ての写真は金村さんの手で暗室用液体を使って、写真を痛めつける。彼はわざと自分の撮った写真を傷つけることが、とても大事な事だと言う。こうすると、撮ったイメージが変わってきて、新しい現実ができる。

Frame by frame, the pictures in System Crash for Hi-Fi exudes individuality with a hint of deliberate repetition. As a whole, it appears to be a conglomeration of cathartic chaos, which is magnified by the irregular spills and splats of whites onto every image. This justifies his self-proclamation, “the dirtier, the better,” which makes each scene more authentic and organic, brutal and honest in synchronicity, and very difficult to replicate.
「System Crash for Hi-Fi」の撮っている風景は同じにみえるが、それぞれが微妙に違う。全体的に見ると、とても混乱している様子が分かる。暗室の液体のシミが、この混乱風景によりインパクトを与える。彼のマントラ、「汚いは美しい」が作る写真は、真似ができない毒のあるオーガニックさを感じる。

Going Against the Grain
逆らう

Two, Kanemura portrayed a very unusual side of Tokyo, which most people (especially foreigners like me) tend to miss. Entangled electric cables, overlapping street and store signs, alleyways drenched in trash, and almost no trace of the people inhabiting the city — just a gray-scale mishmash of angst and mess.
② 金村さんの東京の見方はみんなと違う。特に私みたいな外国人、からまった電線、重なっている店の看板、ゴミだらけの路地、人の姿がない東京の写真は灰色に染めている厭世のよう。

Totally opposing minimalism, the erratic and almost confusing mood of System Crash for Hi-Fi is like inducing anarchy in the streets of Tokyo. Even if one was so enthused in photographing the same cityscapes, it might be impossible to pinpoint where each picture was exactly taken. Taking a step back and looking at it as a whole, it was like getting lost and trapped inside a concrete maze. It was kind of hallucinating at some point and, somehow, observing it drove me a bit saner. I knew that as soon as I get out of that studio, I will start seeing Tokyo in a different perspective.
ミニマリズムの真逆、「System Crash for Hi-Fi」は東京の道で混乱しているようなムード。どこで何を撮ったは詳しい人でも分からないぐらい。一歩下がって、全体的に見ると、自分がコンクリートの迷路に閉じ込められたような感じ。まるで、幻覚を見ているような感じだった。でもそれを見た後は、よりはっきりして、前回の見方と違った角度の東京が見えてくる。

Fear & Loathing in Tokyo
東京をやっつける

Three, System Crash for Hi-Fi reminded me of looking beyond what’s in front of you and that even if one is not inspired with his present environment, he can still create a meaningful photo series by translating that feeling of disgust into something more concretely expressive, something more visually stimulating. This is something that I wasn’t able to do when I was in my home country as I was always reluctant of shooting outside; I hated the city I lived in but my hatred just ended there.
マニラに住んでいた時の私が出来なかったことを金村さんが簡単にできるのは、住んでいる街の嫌いなことをあえて写真で表すこと。マニラが嫌いな私はただ嫌いということで、外で写真を撮ることも気が進まなかった。でも金村さんはその嫌悪感を写真に入れ込むことで、意味のある写真や見方を伝えている。

Hate is not just a strong word; it’s a heavy, and sometimes dragging, emotion as well. But for Kanemura, I’m still wondering where his hatred stem from? What fuels this abhorrence? Why stay in the same place if he detests it so much? His answers were somehow lost in translation. Truthfully, I didn’t want answers right there and then. To me, this enigma makes his approach to photography more interesting. I want to unravel it on my own as I look more into his previous and upcoming works.
嫌悪感とは強い言葉だけではなく、それは何かを引きずっているような重いもの、感情そのもの。彼の嫌悪感はどこから来ているのか?彼はなぜ、この憎悪を持っているのか?どうして自分が嫌いな街に今までも住んでいるのか?訊いても、彼の答えは翻訳でもうまく伝わらなかった。でも、正直、知らない方が良いのかもしれない。私は彼の前とこれからの作品を見ながら自分から答えを解明していきたい。

Asked about what drives him to press the shutter button, he said that little details fascinate him, and obscuring these tiny bits of imageries with overlapping layers of other details make his inanimate subjects in focus have more meaning and purpose. He likes letting his viewers take charge in examining his photographs and allowing them to discover his intentions for creating them the way they are.
なぜシャッターを押しますか?と訊けば、小さな細かいことが、彼の心を強く捕まえる、と言う。フォーカスされた存在感のない細かい部分がどんどん多くなることで、彼の作品が意味のあるものとなる。撮っている風景が見てる人によって変わってくる。彼は、見ている人が自分の写真の意味をどのように伝えて、そして自分の作品の意図を見てる人によって発見させることが好きなようだ。

What happened that night was a brief encounter that echoed to a wide and winding road. As we exited The White, my brain was bursting of ideas and my heart was full of hope. Most of the time, we just need to be exposed to other people’s desire to do things and, after a while, we would find ourselves continuing what we’ve always been after for. And as for me, I can’t wait to finally brave the streets of Tokyo again with a brand new light.
その夜に起こった事が、私の道を広げてくれた。「The White」は、私の頭の中を新しい考えで満ち溢れ、そして心は希望でいっぱいになった。やはり他の人の努力を見れば、私たちにもインスピレーションが誕生する。金村さんの作品との出会いは、私にとって東京の街並みの撮影をついに待ち遠しいものにしてくれた。

image: Erin Cross. Tokyo, 2017

To those in Tokyo, there will be a viewing of Kanemura’s latest short film, Life Is a Gift, on 23 November 2017 in Nakameguro for Insomnia on Repeat , produced by 120 LOVE. Photography by Guillaume Ducreux and music by Dominique Chagnon & Frederic Viennot will also grace the show.

Last but not the least, for this feature, I’d like to give special thanks to Bahag De Guzman, Paul Del Rosario, Frederic Viennot, and Jesse Freeman.

About the Photographer: Osamu Kanemura (b. 1964) is a Japanese photographer and filmmaker. In 1993, he graduated from Tokyo College of Photography in Yokohama, Japan. www.kanemura-osamu.com * @osamukanemura


Translated from E-J by Mary Mora. Originally published at https://www.facebook.com.

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Erin Cross 絵凛 クロス

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A photo-based artist focusing on black & white. Lives and works in Tokyo, Japan. https://tenshokudo.com/moving-to-japan-and-starting-a-new-job/

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