top コラムExhibition ReportVol.24 ERIC "Tokyo Superdeep Borehole" 東京超深度掘削坑

Exhibition Report

Vol.24 ERIC "Tokyo Superdeep Borehole" 東京超深度掘削坑

John Sypal

With camera and flash in hand, Hong Kong native and longtime Japan resident ERIC (he goes by this all-caps mononym) has always been drawn to humanity. Over his twenty-year (and counting) career he’s held dozens of exhibitions, won awards, and produced several books of his vibrant, color street work. (A generous amount of which can be seen on his website: )

ERIC has knack for framing particular moments of supremely banal reality which, when seen from the right angle and fill-flashed just right, are elevated in a photograph to something sublimely and weirdly “beyond” the moment which they originated.  Much of his work’s uncanniness is due to the brightly frozen expressions of his subjects. Such expressions- always captured in good faith with a wry sense of humor- have been a major element in his ongoing colorful photographic tapestry.  


What then, when the streets suddenly become faceless?  


Such was a question posed to Tokyo’s street photographers during the first part of the Coronavirus pandemic of the 2020s where everyone went fully masked in public. In Japan this went well into 2023. (I need to state that yes, obviously the fact that photographing strangers in public became more difficult (or less interesting) is one of the absolutely least important aspects of pandemic’s devastating effect on society- and countless individuals.)


The pandemic prompted many people a chance to reassess their relationship with society. ERIC used it to dig deeper into understanding his adopted country. While the altered/faceless streets prompted other photographers to look elsewhere, take a break, or even give up, ERIC took his Leica R9, a 21mm lens, a Metz flash, 350 rolls of Kodak Ultramax film, and got to work. 


The result? Tokyo Superdeep Borehole, a vivid collection of color photographs he made on the streets between November 2021 to October 2022. Over those eleven months he drilled and flashed his way past the surface of Japanese urban society to reveal a vibrant Tokyo comprised of a light, crisp brightness- a city inhabited by dazzling, unique people.


Tokyo Superdeep Borehole was first introduced as a photobook and exhibition by Zen Foto Gallery in late 2022. This 2023 exhibition, held at the spacious Nikon Salon in Shinjuku, consists of forty 20 x 24 inch C-prints done specially for the venue. The fact that ERIC made them in a color darkroom is one thing but even more amazing is that he did all of the prints in a single day.  (Having put in a few years in a 1-hour photo lab like he did helps.) 

The Nikon Salon’s rectangular layout has a classic feel and prints possess a dynamism thanks to their size. The wide-angle lens gives the subjects a sense of grandeur and immediacy. 


Tokyo, one of the world's most photographed cities, seems to draw more foreign photographers every year. ERIC's photographic quest is not re-telling a story about Japan for global audience. He’s been here a long time. He's interested in individuals-not stereotypes or preconceptions. Maybe it helped that he took up photography after moving to Japan. He sees clearly. He’s not afraid, or apologetic. He is real.  And so are these pictures. In them are none of the faceless, mindless salarymen that populate countless photographs by other non-Japanese in the city. Nor are there the agreed upon “correct” kinds of Japanese people that one might find in domestic TV dramas and commercials. With that special clarity some immigrants are able to perceive their adopted country with, ERIC feels that Japan is far more individual than anyone- especially the Japanese- might think.


In his statement on the work he suggests that:

Today, the Japanese people unconsciously internalize and apply a communal illusion—the notion that Japanese people are this and that—to themselves, and such illusions appear most apparent in the cities, especially Tokyo …


ERIC’s work counters the expected and the agreed-upon.  A unique character himself, his open, enthusiastic approach to photography suggests that things- and strangers- are more interesting, more vibrant, and brighter than we dare hope.  

















「東京超深度掘削坑」は、2022年末にZen Foto Galleryにて写真集と展覧会として初めて発表されました。2023年に新宿の広々としたニコンサロンで開催されたこの展覧会は、本展のために特別に制作された20×24インチのタイプCプリント40点で構成されています。












作品の中で ERICはこう述べています。


  • 人と人が作り出す光景という表面は、いわば地表であって、過去はその下に地層となってどこまでも沈んでいっている。そしてその地表の物事からは「根」が伸び、その地層を深く深く貫いている。
  • 僕は今回の写真で、日本人の「根」を垣間見たように感じている。


ERICの作品は、予想されたことや合意されたことに対抗するものともいえます。 彼自身がユニークな人物であり、写真に対するオープンで情熱的なアプローチは、物事や見知らぬ人は、私たちがあえて期待するよりももっと面白く、もっと生き生きとしていて、もっと明るいものだということを示唆しているのです。





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