On this occasion, I want to take a look at a particular piece from ‘In My Room’ (published by Sokyusha in 2005), a collection of images of people between 1999 and 2004 in the home of photographer Ryudai Takano (b. 1963). The title ‘In My Room’ perhaps suggests a series of photos of intimate friends, lovers, family members or otherwise personal relations. However, looking at the images we realize the intent to hide any relationship between photographer and subject.
The people in the photographs stand in front of a white background, illuminated to make their features, their contours clearly visible. The images are arranged by separating images of the lower and the upper body. Although the photographs of the upper body do focus on the face and thereby seemingly earn the label ‘portrait photography’, the photographs of the lower body give a more enigmatic impression as they intentionally omit certain attributes.
As an example, let’s look at the image above. It shows two legs, cut off roughly where the groin begins. The left leg, straight, supports the weight of the body, while the free right leg is pulled back slightly; the knee looks strangely afloat. The body’s posture suggests a peculiar fluctuation or imbalance. Judging by the women’s sandals on the person’s feet and the light pink manicure decorating the fingertips of the hand, we might conclude the photograph shows a woman. But then the firm fingertips, ankles, back of the feet suggest we are looking at male legs.
Looking at the photograph closely, we see the hand in the upper right corner become — as an extension of the more straightforward upper body photograph — a further expression of the subject’s intent that draws the attention of the viewer even stronger, and the more you look, the deeper the mystery becomes.
To look at a stranger in front of us and judge their gender is one of the first steps we take in internally assigning a meaning and a conception (‘this is the kind of person they are’) to that stranger, and it is an action we do unconsciously many times in our everyday lives.
However, Takano strives to faithfully capture what can be seen on the surface of each of his models, forgetting everything he knows and thinks about them despite the relatively close relationship needed to allow him to invite his models into his room in the first place.
This action, to intentionally forget, represents the challenge of capturing what you see during the yet uncertain stage of ‘looking’, before any kind of judgment (‘this is the person I am looking at’) has taken place.
Active in many fields including conducting lectures and workshops on Japanese and international photography, planning exhibitions and contributing to magazines.