Canon New Cosmos of Pho…
2017, Aug 04
Shimizu Minoru’s criteria for Canon New Cosmos

The website for the Canon New Cosmos of Photography competition includes statements by various judges 1—this year’s crop includes a number of international figures like Alec Soth, Dayanita Singh and Sandra Phillips. I was taken with Shimizu Minoru’s statement, which shows his usual rigor, if not outright harshness:

Abstract catch copy discharged irresponsibly by people who do not look at photographs―words such as “real,” “natural,” or “wild”―is not permitted. Even if it is desirable to take photographs about photography, or to have a good eye for looking at photographs, it is pointless to merely consult the history of photography on its own.

Please be aware that work which relies on context (the death of a family member, the death of a loved one, natural disaster, etc) almost immediately becomes homogeneous. Instead of “a close friend,” select your ideal subject with the utmost care.
Instead of “a photograph of nothing,” show something after thinking, looking, and selecting it with utmost care.
Digital technology is already no longer “something that is not an analog photograph”; it opens on to an unknown territory.
Something that connects this unknown territory to the future and to the past, something that rediscovers “photography”―that’s the kind of expression I’m waiting for.


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Canon New Cosmos of Photography, Minoru Shimizu, Translation

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2012, Nov 29
Ryuichi Ishikawa’s Okinawan Portraits

© Ryuichi Ishikawa

© Ryuichi Ishikawa

I first met Okinawan photographer Ryuichi Ishikawa at the 2011 Higashikawa Photo Festival 1. Many of the portfolio reviews in Higashikawa are done in a semi-public fashion, so I could watch as he filled an entire table with prints of his color portraits—while still keeping an immense stack in reserve. At the time, Ishikawa’s photographs seemed competent, and certainly showed plenty of energy, as it seemed like he’d photographed every person he’d ever come across. That actually might have been the case, because he uses a Hasselblad with a digital back (an investment which caused his reviewer a small shock).

It’s generally not that fruitful to discuss cameras up front, but in Ishikawa’s case I think it’s worth mentioning, because his newer work shows a significant improvement. On the one hand, he’s gotten better technically, avoiding the 6×6 format trap of always having the subject in the middle of the frame. More importantly, though, it seems like he’s gone a bit deeper in finding his subjects. In each case, the ability to literally shoot for free can only have helped his development. Ishikawa was awarded Honorable Mention at the 2012 Canon New Cosmos of Photography.





http://blog.mcvmcv.net/tag/higashikawa-photo-festival/: The equivalent of Arles in Japan, although on a much smaller scale


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Canon New Cosmos of Photography, Higashikawa Photo Festival, Okinawa, Ryuichi Ishikawa

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2011, Nov 20
Follow up to Canon New Cosmos

I went back to Syabi, to take a look at the New Cosmos of Photography exhibition once again. Each of the 5 finalists got some wall space, and a place to show their portfolio, but all of the other 20 people who received honorable mention also had some space to show like one print, and a portfolio. It was interesting to see this work, which really ranged from the terrible to the potentially interesting to the really quite clever. My favorite out of the bunch was Wataru Yamamoto, a student at Tama Art University, who presented a work called “Draw a Line”:


The idea behind this work is really pretty simple. He went into the forest, set up his camera and stood some distance away from it with a long cable release, “drawing a line” through the frame. In these photos the line is basically straight, but in others it zigzags through the trees. Turning the pages of this portfolio was extremely enjoyable. On the one hand, you’re kind of playing a game of “Where’s Wataru?” on every page, because he’s often camouflaged quite well. But it’s also interesting to see how the line changes, and to realize that you’re not even bothering to look at the forest. I like this kind of goofy experimentalism, it reminds me of something John Divola might do.

Strangely enough, the winner of the honorable mention section also used the cable release in her photos, but in a much less experimental way. This is the work of Mariko Sakaguchi:

Every photo in this series shows her taking a bath in some scene where no one notices her. This leaves me very, very cold. Taking a bath in front of a busy train station, or in a local convenience store? That would be something, on the Laurel Nakadate tip. It seems like the work is trying very hard to say something, but not really connecting, and leaving the cable in the frame exemplifies this—visually, it doesn’t add anything to the photo, and conceptually it actually makes the photographs weaker. I mean, this tells us that she is controlling exactly when to take the photo, but it’s not like she’s interacting with anyone else; nothing is ever happening around her! Using a timer might have made things more interesting. There was also a photo in her portfolio where she was bathing in front of a house that had been wrecked by the tsunami. Without being sanctimonious, I would like to express some disappointment with that.

Selecting this work as the “best of the rest” may or may not reflect on the competition as a whole. I’m not sure.


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Canon New Cosmos of Photography, Mariko Sakaguchi, Tokyo Metropolitan Photography Museum, Wataru Yamamoto

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2011, Nov 17
Some notes on the 2011 Canon New Cosmos of Photography Judging Ceremony Thing

I mean this title pretty literally, I just want to type up some notes. I attended the awards ceremony of the Canon New Cosmos of Photography because my friend Pat Tsai was one of the finalists. The experience was strange, not very enjoyable, and I don’t have very much meaningful to say about it. I don’t really understand what happened, but it may be a useful thing to refer back to later if I ever decide to think about the rat races that young photographers in Japan run. Pat didn’t win, so there’s no way I could pretend to write about this objectively.

The format of the event:

  1. Boring introduction from Canon employee
  2. One finalist goes up to the podium and gives a short talk about their work
  3. Judges ask (or do not ask) questions to the finalist
  4. Finalist struggles to answer the questions, sits back down
  5. Repeat until all 5 finalists have presented. This takes about 1.5 hours
  6. Nerve wracking 40 minute break
  7. Boring introduction from Canon employee
  8. Presentation of awards to five finalists
  9. Announcement of winner
  10. Winner gives a speech
  11. Last year’s winner gives a short speech

Profiles of the judges and some description:

  • Katsumi Oomori (photographer): Cool guy who spent large parts of the event burying his face in his hands, appearing completely uninterested in anything. A sign of honesty, given the surroundings
  • Masafumi Sanai (photographer): Didn’t say very much, but when he spoke, rambled in an esoteric way. His long hair and all-denim bathrobe (!!) gave him the appearance of a dude who just rushed over to the event after missing his alarm. I think I mean this in a good way. I should have taken a picture of the robe, but maybe it will appear on the Canon site later.
  • Noi Sawaragi (critic): Embodiment of the “scowling art critic,” asked the harshest questions and spent most of the time with his arms folded. Gave Pat the stinkeye.
  • Minoru Shimizu (critic): I think I’ve seen some of his writings in English before, and thought they were impossible to understand, but he was actually very cool. Spoke with lots of energy, and was always pushing towards something positive. Symbolically, wore a white shirt to Sawaragi’s black leather jacket.
  • HIROMIX (photographer): Oh, HIROMIX. You can hear the parties in her voice.

Best quotes from judges:
“What can photography do?”
“How will you continue what you’re doing for the next 30, 40, 50 years?”
“What’s something bad? It doesn’t have to be anything related to photography, just, tell me something you think is bad!”
“I’m guessing you don’t have a girlfriend, do you?” (Answer: no, I don’t.) “Yeah, I thought so.” (this was Sanai, bless him)

I don’t really want to get in to this right now, but… Pat was the only one who did not get tripped up by the judges. Hiromix asked him about a dead dog photo he took years ago, and did not include in the work he submitted to the thing.


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Canon New Cosmos of Photography, HIROMIX, Masafumi Sanai, Patrick Tsai

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2011, Aug 06
Patrick Tsai is a Canon New Cosmos of Photography Finalist

© Patrick Tsai

Some very sweet news came through the other day: Patrick Tsai is a finalist for the 2011 Canon New Cosmos of Photography award! This is one of the top photography awards given out in Japan, and all five finalists will have a group show at Tokyo’s Metropolitan Museum of Photography in October. (The Grand Prize winner will be announced around that time, I guess.)

The work he submitted is not Talking Barnacles, his ongoing blog project, but “God Only Knows,” a project about a farm in Gunma which you can see a bit of here.

Congrats Pat!


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Canon New Cosmos of Photography, Patrick Tsai

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