top コラムExhibition ReportVol.04 Shinobu Imao "mirage" 今尾偲「蜃気楼」@RED Photo Gallery

Exhibition Report

Vol.04 Shinobu Imao "mirage"
今尾偲「蜃気楼」@RED Photo Gallery

John Sypal

In Tokyo there are photographers who, once every decade or so, quietly put together a fantastic group of pictures seemingly out of nowhere. Shinobu Imao's Mirage, a two-week exhibition of black and white portraits at Red Photo Gallery in Shinjuku in February, was just such a thing. Interestingly enough, it was a decade ago at his previous show here (then called M2) where we first met.


Each gallery in Tokyo naturally has its own sort of personality- Red Photo Gallery, tucked under Place M, has a square floor plan and low ceilings (I have to duck to enter), making it a rather cozy venue. Such a space is perfect for a show of portraits like this.


Imao works in TV and video production- he’s even directed a short film. While he works with moving images, Mirage is a collection of still, straightforward, and beautiful pictures of interesting women. The subjects range from friends to actresses he’s worked with- although, by merely looking at the expressions in his pictures one can’t tell the difference between those who make a living with their appearance and those who don’t. This, I think, is due to the balance in the way Imao photographs. His tools are simple- a Canon Kiss and a 50mm lens and Kodak Tri-X film. With these he pairs curiosity and vision- and adjusts these elements to the mood of the subject. A good portrait is something created between the photographer and the subject- for all the chatter of “power balances” in photography in the West, it seems to me that the photographer has far less “power” than might be thought. Without the subject, the photographer has nothing. A portrait- a good one, anyway- has to have an element of desire, that to see- but also in that of the subject wanting to be seen. Figuring that balance out doesn’t have to be expressed in words- it’s something worked out between two people. This is the case with photographers who make good and compelling work, anyway. There’s no real way to teach this- like character or personality, it’s something innate. (This goes for both photographers and subjects.) 



One thing I think is immediately felt in his pictures is an understanding that each subject must feel pleased when seeing their portrait.  Certainly there’s the novelty of it being in monochrome but Imao’s pictures are more than that- and they’re more than just pretty pictures of beautiful women. It’s the difference between laboring to make an image of someone beyond (less?) than what they are- - that’s advertising- - and an ability to recognize something there in the moment with a camera between two people. 

Imao says that the old belief that a camera takes part of your soul might be right- and in a way, a photograph preserves something of the subject. This it does- but I also think that work with the depth that his has also allows the subject to discover or perhaps confirm something within themselves. To me this is the source of the beauty in his work.  I don’t know how “photogentic”, whether a person or moment, can be expressed in words- but thankfully it’s possible in pictures. 

Here’s hoping that we don’t have to wait until 2032 for the next installment. 




今年の2月に新宿のRED Photo Galleryにて1月31日〜2月12日の2週間にわたって開催された今尾偲さんのモノクロポートレート展「蜃気楼」は、まさしくそうでした。


東京にあるギャラリーは当然それぞれに個性があるのですが、特に新宿にあるRED Photo Galleryは正方形の間取りで天井が低く、とても居心地の良い会場です。そんな空間が今回のようなポートレート展にはぴったりなのです。





機材はシンプルで、キヤノンEOS Kissと50mmレンズ、そしてコダックのTri-Xフィルムです。これらに好奇心とビジョンを組み合わせ、被写体の雰囲気に合わせてこれらの要素を調整していくのです。







今尾さんの写真からすぐに感じられるのは、被写体が自分のポートレートを見て喜んでいるに違いないということです。 確かにモノクロームという斬新さはありますが、今尾さんの絵はそれ以上のもので、単にきれいな女性の写真というだけではないんです。それは、ありのままの姿以上の(またはそれ以下の)イメージを作ろうとする労力と、二人の間にカメラを置いた瞬間にそこにある何かを認識する能力の違いにすぎません。

今尾さんは、「〈カメラは魂の一部を写す〉という古い考え方は正しいかもしれない。ある意味、写真は被写体の何かを保存するものだ」と言っています。しかし、彼のような深みのある作品は、被写体が自分の中にある何かを発見したり、確認したりすることもできると思うのです。それが、彼の作品の美しさの根源なのだと思います。 人であれ、瞬間であれ「フォトジェニック」を言葉で表現することはできませんが、写真で表現できるのはありがたいことです。




会期:1月31日(月)- 2月12日(日)

会場:RED Photo Gallery

   東京都新宿区新宿1-2-11 近代ビル2F(Photo Gallery Place Mと同じビル内)
TEL :03-5357-7407



今尾偲 Shinobu Imao



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