Miti Ruangkritya is a young Thai photographer with some interesting projects on his website. I was particularly drawn to “Thai Politics,” 1 a three-part series (as he says) “regarding the ongoing political tension in Thailand.” Perhaps it’s the general lack of politically-motivated photography in Japan, but it was refreshing to see these photos taking the pulse of people through their t-shirts. As a point of reference from Japan, the late and very great Yasuhiro Ishimoto did a similar project in the late 90s, shooting the backs of pedestrians in Shibuya. This work was published as a book, “Shibuya, Shibuya,” 2 which I can recommend very highly.
Early this week, photographer Yasuhiro Ishimoto passed away at the age of 90. Caille’s warm response to hearing this news illustrates his unique connection to America.
I only encountered Ishimoto’s photos at PGI Gallery, where he had shows up until as recently as last December. Last time, I was really impressed by his book “Shibuya, Shibuya,” which only shows the backs of people waiting at the intersection later mythologized by Sofia Coppola. The photographs of an old man in the teen paradise that is Shibuya could easily be contrived, but his obvious dedication to the subject made the book work. Even spending such a brief time with his work, it was clear that he was a master. This is a story that was floating around Twitter earlier:
Just a few days ago I heard a story about Ishimoto. When he was shooting ‘Shibuya, Shibuya,’ a young girl dragged him to the police because he was shooting from a low angle. He showed them his card but no one knew or cared who he was. I wish him well in next life.
Now it’s de rigeur to have a trans-national, cosmopolitan life, to be “between identities” and “between countries” and all of that, but there was a time when it wasn’t so hip, when nobody wanted to hear about your “struggle,” they just looked at you suspiciously. And one of the things that’s so interesting about Yasuhiro is the way that his photographs reflect not just the values of whatever country he happens to be in at the moment but also the style. So his American photographs look really American, and his Japanese photographs look really Japanese.
There’s no way to talk about this without being really reductive about different countries and cultures, but this is a really, REALLY hard thing for any artist to do.