top コラムExhibition ReportVol.3 Herbie Yamaguchi "TOKYO EYES" @SUPER LABO 

Exhibition Report

Vol.3 Herbie Yamaguchi "TOKYO EYES" @SUPER LABO

John Sypal

Photographers deal with facts and surfaces- and while it's a fact that masks help, their (wonderful) ubiquity has undeniably altered what daily life on the streets looks like for now. Likewise, masks have altered how we see each other. This new facial landscape has posed a challenge for street photographers for whom expressions are of interest. Obviously, when considering the current, unimaginable suffering and hardship globally caused by the pandemic, this qualm is near-meaningless- or, admittedly, perhaps even offensive. 

Photographer Herbie Yamaguchi has taken this development head-on, so to speak. While more than a few street photographers have pined for the expressive richness of the street in the Before Times, rather than shrug and shift towards say, landscapes, Herbie has resolutely maintained his interest in the individuals he continues to meet in the city. For him masks are not a visual "problem" that get in the way of the pictures he wants to take- instead he’s come to see them not as barriers of an individual’s spark but rather, amplifiers of the eyes.
Mask-clad Tokyoites are the subject of his newest body of work. Titled "Tokyo Eyes"   his new images, owing to their composition, glow, and overall sense of kindness, are instantly recognizable as Herbie's pictures. The most immediate, striking element of each of his pictures is the subject's eyes- It’s startling how powerful they appear when so much else is covered.
 In his statement Herbie notes:

It is incredible how much our habit of wearing masks has changed perceptions. To me now, people wearing masks look as beautiful as never before because their eyes seem to shine all the more brightly, and with a strong willingness. While it is also true that some people put on make-up only around the eyes, they strive to express their feelings just with their eyes. As the saying "the apple of one's eyes" implies, such eyes are captivating.


His subjects are all the kinds of normal, interesting people whom you will find in Tokyo.  In the pictures are neighborhood kids, store clerks, Buddhist priestesses- and even a punk drummer making ends meet as a taxi driver. Born with the gift of gab, Herbie is one able to not simply strike up a conversation with anyone- but is able to receive permission to take their picture soon after.
 Herbie can also talk cameras and lenses- but it's his infectious enthusiasm in telling visitors the stories behind each picture and person that makes viewing the work next to him so enjoyable. He loves and needs photography in his life- his affection for people is the other part of this equation for living.  
During my visit Herbie told me that this series suggests a way to push back against the negative aspects of modern life. He noted that we've become wary, defensive, and lost amongst each other in public. Fear too, is a problem. Therefore, he wanted to reaffirm the beauty that is living- and in the way it's transmitted through the eyes- both those of the subjects and ours as viewers of his photographs. He hopes that photographic connection can help guide us through this period of our lives. 

For those who can't make it to the show- or would simply like to spend more time with the people in his pictures- Super Labo has published a hand-sewn soft-cover catalog that includes many more pictures than appear on the gallery walls.  I have a feeling that this book will be seen as a document of the early 2020s. 
Here's to hoping that Tokyo- and the world's eyes- are able to be seen with open smiles soon.
A note on gear: 
In Japan, Herbie and Leica go hand in hand. If one says "Japanese Leica Photographer", Herbie Yamaguchi is going to be near the very top of the list. He is well known for the tools he uses- and for Tokyo Eyes he used digital Leica M bodies and a vintage 50mm Noctilux lens. There's lots of talk about the "glow" of Leica glass- but in Herbie's case, his pictures really do have a unique brightness to them. The lens helps, but I think that warmth is genuine affection for his subject shining through. 
Tokyo Eyes is up at Super Labo Store Tokyo in Jimbocho until March 13, 2022.  



現在、神保町のスーパーラボで開催されている展示作品は、最新シリーズ「TOKYO EYES」です。「マスクの東京人」を被写体としたハービーさんの写真の中で、最も直接的で印象的な要素は人々の目です。マスクで顔の多くの部分が覆われているにもかかわらず、その目の力強さに驚かされます。





TOKYO EYESの被写体は、東京にいるごく普通の人々です。 

SUPER LABOは手縫いのソフトカバーのカタログを出版しました。 印刷が非常に良くて、この本は2020年代のドキュメントになりそうな予感がします。

Tokyo Eyes. 





Herbie Yamaguchi “TOKYO EYES”

January 14 – March 13, 2022
Opening reception & Book signing : Friday Jan 14  5-8pm  

1-4-11 Kanda-Sarugakucho Chiyodaku, Tokyo 101-0064
tel : 03 6882 4874

time : 12-6pm  Wed – Sun
*We open till 8pm on Friday Jan 14.


ハービー山口 「TOKYO EYES」

会期 :  1月14日(金) – 3月13日(日)
     東京都千代田区神田猿楽町 1-4-11

時間 : 12-6pm 水-日、祭日
定休日 : 月 、 火




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