Kikai, Hiroh


Japanese, b. 1945; lives and works in Tokyo


Since the early 1970s, Hiroh Kikai has taken street portraits in the Asakusa district of Tokyo. Home to the Sensōji Temple, this "urban backwater" neighborhood draws a cross section of the Japanese population—pilgrims from all over the country flock to the temple, while an assortment of vibrant, eccentric personalities are attracted by the area's idiosyncratic aspects. Kikai's Asakusa Portraits convey this sense of abounding individuality, yet they retain a strict sense of continuity and grouping—no doubt attributed to his precise working method. Spending no more than ten minutes on each subject, Kikai photographs passersby in front of the scarlet walls of the Sensoji Temple, which provide a uniform backdrop essential for an improvised outdoor studio. He has also rooted this constructive choice in his artistic approach. "When I photograph things or people," he states, "I want to capture not only surface qualities, but also the essence of the subject. So with my portraits in Asakusa, I decided that I wouldn't chase my subjects too far." Captured on a handheld Hasselblad camera, each black-and-white Asakusa portrait is accompanied by an excerpted quotation from Kikai's conversation with his subject. These captions impart a means for extending the project beyond a composite portrait of contemporary Japanese life, by creating what Kikai views as an inexhaustible "two-way conversation between the viewer and the picture."

Artworks by Kikai, Hiroh

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