Marc made a post on Eyecurious a couple of months ago featuring Michael Wolf’s “Tokyo Compression,” a series of photographs of Japanese people stuffed into trains. (Images available here and here) Wolf’s subjects are always really tightly packed into the train, and he focuses in tight on their faces, which results in some unflattering images to say the least. The comments on the post got interesting, as a few people discussed whether the series was promoting the cliched “Japan is depressing” narrative. In the end, I agree with Dirk’s comment that “buttons are being pushed”; I wouldn’t read anything too sinister into the series.
Tomoyuki Sakaguchi’s 2002 series “Mado” (“Window”) offers a different perspective on this concept. The people in Sakaguchi’s photos are also crowded in, but not to the same extent as in Wolf’s series. They have some space to themselves, and the framing is also more generous. If Wolf is filtering for misery, Sakaguchi seems to be looking for some repose, or even self-reflection, in his subjects. The people here are certainly uncomfortable, but they’re also human.