top コラムExhibition ReportVol.11 Mitsuru Sato "Yesterday"佐藤充「昨日」

Exhibition Report

Vol.11 Mitsuru Sato "Yesterday"佐藤充「昨日」

John Sypal

One of the things which I think may be unique to the photographic culture of Tokyo (and Shinjuku in particular) is the way so many photographers focus on a single strain of interest and follow it up with regular exhibitions.  There’re a few reasons for this. First, this sort of genuine interest is not merely about exposition as it is exploration. Or putting it better, incorporating photography into a way of life. Not, sadly, in terms of rent money or a paycheck but as a way to deal with the world.  Photographers that I know in Tokyo who work this way have settled on a single camera, film, and go about their days on their own terms. This focus allows them/us to disregard anything other than that core compulsion to make photographs of what they/we want, how they/we want. Another bonus is that showing work under the same series saves them/me from having to think up a title for each new show.


Once such long-term artist is Mitsuru Sato.  A member of Red Photo Gallery in Shinjuku, “Yesterday” is a series he has been regularly exhibiting there since at least 2013. I’m such a fan of his work that I haven’t missed a single show since he’s started doing them. As far as I am concerned, if there was ever a yet unpublished series (and photographer) that deserved a photobook, it’s this one.


For this Yesterday series, Sato mainly uses a 35mm compact camera- a Konica Hexar with a lens pre-focused at 60cm and set to silent mode. Inaudible, he goes about snapping candid portraits (essences?) on the streets of Shinjuku and in the trains of Tokyo. He exhibits the images printed large and hung in a row around the square gallery- an arrangement that perhaps echoes the rhythm and spacing of train windows.


As his lens meanders through the city, it often alights on the nearby faces of young women bathed by smartphone-glow in the train, on shadow-cast streets of strangers, or men hunched over beers in Shinjuku bars. Pre-pandemic, his work captured candid expressions of fellow subway riders often lost in thought or Twitter- their full faces appearing in the frame. While the core of his vision remains, since 2020 the ubiquity of Tokyo’s total mask culture sort of took over his pictures. Suddenly the sort of lonely (social) distance that his work held captured a similar feeling which settled over the populace. In his newest pictures, the masks that separate (and protect) people, the transparent vinyl barriers which divide diners packed in at ramen counters or 7-11 registers- even the usual sound-barrier cloth put up around construction projects takes on a new feeling- one of the self-imposed remoteness people wrap themselves with in public now.


But if there’s any “message” to these pictures it’s not one that’s scientific nor political or of any real urgency. Maybe it’s simply, “this is what it looks like now”. I don’t know what’s next, and neither, I suppose, does he.  But this isn’t about ideas for tomorrow- it’s about those moments of “now”- moments which quickly become 35mm slices of yesterday.


Yesterday is a quiet, intriguing series. I’m forever drawn to its completeness as a world- and the slight tinge of loneliness at its core. 



新宿の写真文化におけるひとつの特徴は、多くの写真家がひとつの系統に焦点を当て、それを定期的に展覧会で発表していることです。 きっとこれにはいくつかの理由があります。まず、写真を生活の中に編み込むということです。純粋な興味は単なる表現を超えて、世界との扱い方を探るということなのです。




そんな長期シリーズを続ける写真家のひとりが佐藤充さんです。 新宿のRED Photo Galleryのメンバーで、「昨日」は彼が2013年頃から定期的に発表しているシリーズです。私は彼の作品のファンで、彼が展示を始めてから一度も見逃したことはない(と思います)。私が知る限り、写真集にふさわしい未発表のシリーズがあるとすれば、それはこの作品だと言えます。




















佐藤 充「昨日」


RED Photo Gallery

〒160-0022 東京都新宿区新宿1-2-11 近代ビル2F



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