Photo Exhibition “Individual-Japan and Japanese”

11.6~12.20.2017 at Tokyo Polytechnic University / 2-9-5 Honcho, Nakano-ku, Tokyo 164-8678 Japan

Commentary by Mika Kobayashi, visiting scholar at the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo

I was in my first year of college when I first saw 17-sai no Chizu(1988)(ⅰ), The 17-year-olds in the photographs were born a few years earlier than me. I remember how I read the book over and over again, comparing my appearance to them, and recalling on my 17-year-old mind. Each of the 17-year-olds had their stories and future dreams printed next to them, and as I read, I felt like their real voices were echoing in my mind, because the quotes and their nervous faces perfectly told how hesitant and reserved they were, almost as though they were making a confession. Turning the pages in the library, I imagined how I would be shot, and what stories I would tell. Come to think of it, this was the work that made me think about the distance between the photographer and the subject when the twi meet and talk.

After 17-sai no Chizu, Hashiguchi walked literally all over Japan in pursuit of “discovering Japan and the Japanese people” and published Father, Couple, Shoku 1991-1995 (ⅱ), and Yume (ⅲ) in the following decade. Series after series, his work matures, by portraying the subject in relation to their family role/profession/age and to the environment they live in. Hashiguchi’s attitude to treat the subject as “a person he met at that time, at that place” never changes. This is obvious from the distance he keeps from the subject, and also from the questions that he asks them. The question consistently asked in the series is “today’s breakfast”. “What did you eat this morning?” he asked the subject. This casual question allows us to get a glimpse of the subject’s everyday life. These kinds of questions open up a dialogue, which leads us to a deeper layer of them and closes the distance between the observer and the subject.

It has been 30 years after 17-sai no Chizu was published, and some 20 years after the succeeding series were introduced to the world. When presented this compilation, we can observe the social and cultural features of the 1980s and the 90s in detail. Because these social and cultural features come to the foreground, the categories binding each series-age/profession/social roles -evanesce, and the individuality of the subjects stand out. In other words, the photographs show the uniqueness of each person, by showing them in groups of social categories. In our society, social categories function as a symbol to divide people, to tie them down, and to evaluate them. Hashiguchi utilizes these categories, but at the same time seeks a way to observe each people as a unique individual. What we see when we stand in front of his works, might be the past and present of ourselves.

(Translation by Mizuki Enomoto)


(ⅰ) 17-sai no Chizu literally translates to “map of a 17-year-old”. All the subjects in this series are aged 17.

(ⅱ) Shoku translates to “profession”. This series features people with various professions at their workplace.

(ⅲ) Yume translates to “dream”. In this series, the artist visits people who experienced the 4 Japanese eras, which are Meiji (1868-1912), Taisho (1912-1926), Showa (1926-1988), and Heisei (1988-present). The eras are determined by the emperor’s accession. The current Heisei era will continue until the descendent of the current emperor, which is expected in 2018 or 2019.

解説:小林美香、東京国立近代美術館 客員研究員


 『十七歳の地図』に続き、およそ十年間にわたって「日本と日本人を知る」ために日本中を隈なく歩き回って撮影された写真は、『Father』、『Couple』、『職1991-1995 Work』、『夢』とシリーズを追う毎に、被写体になった人たちを、それぞれが担う役割や関係性、積み重ねてきた時間とともに、周辺の環境の中に描き出す厚みを持った作品として醸成されてゆく。その過程において一貫して保たれているのが、誰であっても「その時の、その場所にいる人」としてとらえる姿勢である。このような姿勢は、写真に表されている被写体との距離としてのみならず、それぞれに投げかけられる質問にも反映されている。どのシリーズにも共通している質問項目が「今朝の朝食」である。「今朝は何を食べましたか?」という問いかけに対する返答は、何の気負いも衒いもなく、それぞれの日常生活の一端を示している。このような簡素な問いかけが起点になり、対話の中で紡がれた言葉が、写真に写る人と写真を見る人との距離を縮めるものになっている。