We're pleased to continue presenting Exposures: An Aperture Blog, where fine-art photography enthusiasts around the world can interact with some of the most engaged professionals in the field. We welcome your comments.

16 May 2007

At Work, Part I

A map of Wakayama Prefecture, the third prefecture I visited in Japan (the first two were the Miyagi and Nara Prefectures). Click on the image to enlarge. The numbers circled on the map represent places I found and photographed.

My project was an initiative of the Japanese organization called EU-Japan Fest and the photography project within that, which was called “European Eyes on Japan.” They wanted all Japanese prefectures documented by European photographers. The project is now in its eleventh year.

(Visit the EU-Japan Fest page by following this link: http://www.eu-japanfest.org/english/index.html . It is also available in the original Japanese.)

Normally, this organization invites four photographers and each covers one prefectures; a total of four. Because I would be the first one ever to photograph inside people’s homes, they wanted me to cover the three prefectures that the others did. Because it would take too much time to cover all in one trip, and because I had a commercial job to do in the USA in between, we decided to cut the trip in two.

First they wanted me to cover Sendai, which is just a town in Miyagi Prefecture. Because they were very afraid that I would never be able to enter someone’s house without an appointment, they organized everything for me. This meant that they decided what places I’d go to and they used their own connections. But nobody really understood the rules by which I make my work and so I ended up in places that I was not interested in.

After the trip I spoke to the people of the organization and asked for a different approach. I told them that I wanted to drive around by myself and all I needed was someone to read the signs and to translate for me. In the end they agreed, and the second trip was done in a completely new way (for them). Initially, I had some problems with guides who still were not able to feel free enough to just go to a house and knock on the door, but after a while they all got the feeling and started to enjoy doing so. And it worked!

Altogether I spent over two months in Japan in which I photographed over ninety houses, gave two workshops to school classes and opened two exhibitions, giving talks to audiences.

Sending me there gave an extra dimension to my ongoing project Domestic Landscapes and I discovered that even in Japan the situation is exactly the same: the old, traditional way of life makes way for the new and modern style.


Anonymous said...

Hey Bert -

I notice you have had zero comments on your blog so far. In case you are thinking that no-one is reading this, rest assured, I am at least ! I saw your photographs at the Photographers Gallery in London recently and love your work. It's really interesting hearing about your method of approach as well.



Bert Teunissen said...

Thank you Robert. I know people are watching this blog, but it is still very new and we're solving some small problems regarding communication, hence the late reaction. Keep looking; there's much more coming up.
Cheers, Bert