Does anybody know Hiroh Kikai?
I had never heard of him until I saw his book “Persona” last year. The photobook “Persona” contains portraits of people from Asakusa/ Tokyo, whom Hiroh Kikai photographed for three decades since 1973.
“Persona”, published in 2003, is a large format book and the black and white portraits of people from Asakusa are printed in quadtone in striking quality. The book won the 23rd Domon Ken Award and the 2004 Annual Award of the Photographic Society of Japan. Unfortunately, it is sold out and it took me some time to find it in Tokyo. A new, smaller version of the photo book was published last autumn.
Today Asakusa is best known for its Senjoji Temple, a temple famous for Tokyo’s biggest festival taking place late spring every year, while in the first half of the 20th century Asakusa was the major entertainment district of Tokyo.A very vivid description of the bustling live of Asakusa in the 1920th can be found in Yasunari Kawabata’s novel The Scarlet Gang Of Asakusa.
That Asakusa still isn’t a faceless neighbourhood inhabited mostly by salarymen and their families show the monochrome photographs by Kikai. His ‘personae’ are all individual characters, but not of the flashy, fashion addict type. They are mostly ordinary people with touch out of ordinary, who emanate the aura of something special, of living an unadjusted life in a society which asks for maximum conformity.
Apparently, when living in a congested city of over ten million people, individuals develop a yearning to discover their own identity. Mr. Kikai’s camera captures these people of Tokyo with great accuracy. He accomplishes this feat through quiet contemplation of his subjects, an inimitable style born from his understanding of human nature. Perhaps this explains why Hiroo Kikai´s subjects are able to liberate themselves from constrains such as vanity and appearance when they stand in front of the camera.
[Quote: Andrzej Wajda]
In fact, Kikai is one of the photographers – like August Sander or Diane Arbus for example – who find an amazing balance between their own strong visual idea and giving their subjects have enough space to exhibit a facet of their personality.
My work as a photographer began from a chance encounter with the works of Diane Arbus. The first collection of her work that I purchased gave me a jolt. On each page, strangers spoke to me of the unfathomable depths of life.
[Quote: Hiroh Kikai]