"A Low Temperature Burn": Sketches of Tokyo, Meisa Fujishiro's First Collection of Black-and-White Nude Photography
In this second installment of Premium Japan's interview with Meisa Fujishiro, we discuss his new collection Sketches of Tokyo as well as his thoughts on photography, art, and life. (First installment available here [Japanese only].)
"Everyone saw their mother naked when they were growing up"
"Photography shows what isn't seen," says Fujishiro. "Or, really, what actually is seen, but not noticed. Things that happened to be hidden, or buried in memory, or somehow sealed away. It's photography that shows us these things.
"There was a time when photography showed the unknown, but very little is unknown these days. I feel like the job of photography might be to take the things still inside as afterimages and show them to us again properly.
"The same goes for nude photography. Everyone saw their mother naked when they were growing up. We know what a woman's naked body looks like. But nakedness is usually hidden by clothing, so that we don't see it. When that nakedness which we already knew, already understood, is shown in photographs in the context of a society where it isn't shown, friction is created, and that's where the stimulus arises. This, I think, is the role of nude photography."
Sketches of Tokyo is the first photography collection in four years from Fujishiro, who moved to Japan's capital from Okinawa. The book contains photographs of over 53 women, taken in high-rise Tokyo hotels over the course of those four years. The calm touch of monochrome and the ineffable feeling of distance from the models combine to convey a worldview unique to Fujishiro, which is part of the project's charm.
"There is a certain amount of what you might call listlessness. There's usually a sense in nude photography that the models are being pursued, it's very hot. Hot enough to burn. But Sketches of Tokyo isn't like that. It's more the sort of heat that seems safe, but will give you a low-temperature burn if you aren't careful."
This, Fujishiro says, is his own coldness showing.
"It wasn't intentional, but I think I am basically a cold person. So that's my own coldness becoming apparent, I think, through the women."
When Sketches of Tokyo went on sale, Fujishiro himself described it as having a "slightly melancholy feel." The afterword, too, has a certain sadness about it. Fujishiro's description of the work as an "homage to Tokyo" also makes a strong impression.
"I was a little melancholy during production, but once it was done I looked back and thought, 'Well, I've certainly made a melancholy work here.' I had decided right from the start to shoot in black and white, and that contributes too.
"Tokyo appears as a sort of mid-air shelter bounded by the clear glass of high-rise hotels. A Tokyo that wasn't there fifty years ago—the Tokyo of today."