top コラムExhibition ReportVol.13 Yoshihito Muta “Anpontan Pokan, Yin and Yang” 牟田義仁「アンポンタン・ポカン、陰に陽に」

Exhibition Report

Vol.13 Yoshihito Muta “Anpontan Pokan, Yin and Yang”

John Sypal

Yoshihito Muta is one of my absolute favorite photographers.


Muta has no photobooks, no website, not even an Instagram account. His preferred means of sharing photographs- and the only way I think I’ve ever seen them- is through prints in exhibitions at 3rd District Gallery in Shinjuku.

According to the gallery’s website, Muta has held fifty-five exhibitions there since 1996 (with forty-nine of these between 2009 – 2022). I’ve made a point to see as many of his shows as possible, always excited as I make my way up the Showa-steep stairwell to the fourth-floor gallery. No matter sort of work he’s exhibiting, Muta’s consistent, penetrating line of sight and unwavering editing skill creates a visual experience that is always deeply satisfying.  


Some of Muta’s shows are part of his ongoing, diaristic “Record of Things” series- each one presenting a selection of black and white, date-stamped photographs taken with his Konica Hexar. These he hangs chronologically-ordered around the gallery. Other exhibitions I’ve seen have ranged from dozens of 4x5 photos of path above a reclaimed sewage ditch in Suginami-ku to a superb set of snapshots taken over five hours in a single afternoon in Rangoon.


“Anpotan Pokan, Yin and Yang” is unusual for him in that it’s comprised of digitally-captured, inkjet-printed images. It’s funny- in this city of what, 17 million(?), I’ve ran into Muta twice this year on back streets far outside the usual Shinjuku gallery circuit where I’d expect to meet him. Both times he had a massive Canon DLSR and flash around his neck.


No matter the medium, much of Muta’s work suggests an aura of surrealism- and by “suggest” maybe I mean “gobsmacks me with the clarity of such penetrating mystery”.  

While some photographers’ work is overshadowed by a demonstration of planned effort by the hand of the artist- a method that often results in contrived, preachy work- Muta instead eschews stylistic artifice. His game is Straight-photography. He has respects and yields to, the medium. Rare are photos of movement- the stillness and how its framed perhaps enhances his perception of the mystery of place or moment. His use of such transparency shows he has nothing to hide. The merging of intuition and phenomenon and camera is enough to make compelling work. Who needs heavy post-production when you’ve got an eye like him?


Obviously, with a soft-spot for traditional film/silver-print photography, I have also always enjoyed Muta’s long-standing dedication to- and absolute mastery of- black and white printing. I must admit then, I quite enjoyed this digital show, even if (or especially because) I didn’t quite know what to expect upon entering the gallery.


On the walls hung a row of seventeen 20x24 vertically-oriented frames- in each was a crisp, bright fragment of the world. Digitally-captured, brightly colored, and vertically oriented, snaps of oddities make up a large part of Photography Online. I wondered what made these different- but this question lasted for but a moment. Sure, they were far larger than anything you’d scrool through on your phone. But there was more to them than size- quickly, that familiar, mystifying aura inherent in Muta’s work appeared. This is often made felt through the framing and subtle tones in his monochromatic photographs- yet here it was just as strong in the vivid pallet of his inkjet prints.



The show opened with a stark, eye looking emerging from a fleshy, waxy-wooden, Courbet-ian “origin” in a cinnabar field. Starting with such an image set the tone- eyes, if not the repetition of circles, featured strongly in nearly every image. Some were representative (images of eyes)- while others were negative- things to be seen literally through, like the large hole the blue tarp in the second picture.

After going through the images for the second and third times, the eyes made an even stronger impression. “Real” eyes, like those of a monkey, connected with those of the few humans in the show- and likewise, with those of the viewer. Soon, every circle or eye insinuated something about the act of looking- or being seen. Simultaneously, the crispness and larger-than-life size of the images heightened details into something to odder and perhaps more than what they looked to be- the swell and sag of a frog’s throat- the reflection of a fiberglass swan boat-

even the lens on a camera seen in the show was now something more than just a piece of glass.


Despite their apparent directness, obstruction in the form of overlapping elements remains a major interest in Muta’s photographs. Things are straightly-shown but there’s always a little something just slightly off that gives each image it’s energy. Perhaps my favorite photo in the show- and probably one of the most interesting I’ve seen in any show this year- was one in which a mannequin’s head could be made out in the shadows through an array of brightly-flashed street signs.

The sequence concluded with a bewildering waterscape- a fine piece in this unstoppable mosaic of pictures which Muta has been compiling his entire life.


As I said, despite an archive which might rival Issei Suda in quantity and quality, Muta is still a relatively unknown, and unpublished photographer. As much as I’d love to have a shelf of books of his work, I have a hunch he’s mostly fine with this. Yoshihito Muta’s focus is first and foremost the continuation of his photographic path on his own terms, at his own pace.

What more could you ask for?




牟田さんは写真集もウェブサイトも、そしてInstagramのアカウントさえ持っていません。牟田さんが写真を共有する手段、そして私が彼の写真を見る唯一の方法は、新宿の3rd District Galleryで開催される展覧会のプリントのみなのです。



このギャラリーでさまざまな展示を開催している上に、牟田さんはコニカヘキサーで撮影した日付入りのモノクロ写真の「Record of Things」シリーズを継続的に発表しています。これらの写真は、ギャラリー内に年代順に展示されています。私が見た他の展示は、杉並区の埋め立てられた下水溝の上の道を撮影した4x5の写真数十枚から、ラングーン(ミャンマーの旧首都ヤンゴンの旧名称)の午後を5時間かけて撮影した素晴らしいスナップショットまで多岐に渡りました。






































  • 牟田義仁 Muta Yoshihito
  • 「アンポンタン・ポカン、陰に陽に」
  • Anpontan Pokan, Yin and Yang
  • 2022年11月1日〜13日
  • 3rd district gallery
  • 35mmデジタルカメラ・カラーインクジェットプリント 20×24インチ・17枚


PCT Members

PCT Membersは、Photo & Culture, Tokyoのウェブ会員制度です。

特典1「Photo & Culture, Tokyo」最新の更新情報や、ニュースなどをお届けメールマガジンのお届け
今後もさらに充実したサービスを拡充予定! PCT Membersに登録する