Yatsugatake walk vol.8

a perfect guide of Yatsugatake area for tourists

Yatsugatake as a starting point for the art of photography (P.8-9)

I asked the director of "Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts (K'MoPA)" and photographer Mr. Eikoh Hosoe what he thinks about the 25th anniversary of the museum and the future prospects.


Promoting young photographers from around the world here in Kiyosato

One of the pillars since its opening in 1995 is "Young Portfolio" (hereinafter YP). The intention of this long term project is to acquire the excellent works of artists from all over the world for the permanent collection. The maximum age of these artists is 35. Having their photos selected for the museum's collection means for a photographer that he or she can be proud of the rest of their life.
 The philosophy behind YP is to select creative and expressive works of young photographers and to give them pride and encouragement. It additionally serves for them as a moment to return to and reconnect with their younger selves when experiencing doubt or nostalgia later in their career. In fact, some photographers come to the museum saying, "I would like to view my work in the collection here" when being stuck in their creative process. They will return home refreshed after being reunited with their early work and touch the scenic landscape of Kiyosato. "I want Kiyosato to be their 'Spiritual home'. Since the collection is here in Kiyosato it allows them to revisit their photographs from earlier years. That's very significant." Furthermore, when the reputation of young photographers is not yet established their work often gets scattered. By preserving their work permanently here at K'MoPA, it will inspire and support upcoming generations of artists. Mr. Hosoe keeps instilling on young photographers, "It's important to look at excellent photographs. To look at works by master photographers more carefully and get a feel for them."


The impression of photography broadens the eye of visual perception

When asked about his own origins, Mr. Hosoe told that he started taking pictures in junior high school, borrowing his father's camera. At the age of 17, he was selected for the Tokyo-Kanagawa division of “Student Section” a photography contest started by Fujifilm, ultimately winning the nationwide first prize. This was in 1951.
"This was extremely significant. Not for me personally. This was what photography is all about! This was where photography and art came together! That was the significance. Aside from photography magazines, photography was regarded as a mere hobby in general Japanese society. The social, academic, and artistic significance of photography has gradually become more prevalent."
These are the weighty words by the leading expert and spearhead of the Japanese photography culture, and who has closely observed the history of Japanese photography for the last 70 years.
"The position of photographers in Japan is, unfortunately, rather low. In Europe and America, elementary schools include classes in photography. In primary education photography should, in the same way as painting is, be incorporated as a part of art lessons" repeats Mr. Hosoe.

"What is the significance of nurturing children's visual expression through photography? Even a kindergartner is capable of taking pictures. Children can take pictures of their own family, grandparents and friends. It is much more realistic and reactionary than in paintings. When your mind is strongly inspired by a photograph, it broadens the way you perceive things, not only in photography," he says.
Mr. Hosoe is not focused on the narrow scope of photography education, but on the visual art education as a whole, including painting.
The following occurred in 1998 when K'MoPA was hosting the ORACLE conference (an international conference for curators of photography from museums around the world). At that time Mr. Hosoe said, "Everyone if you are utilizing a Japanese camera please raise your hand! I called out, "Jang! And they raise their hands in unison.
"The majority of cameras in the world are produced in Japan. Despite this fact, it is not utilized in education in Japan. This is hopelessly inconsistent. I think we should not merely consider the high level of Japanese camera technology in terms of business, but also in relation to education. That's what we want to achieve in Kiyosato."

Making the joy of expression through photography more popular

"People around the world, professionals, amateurs, and novices...they almost all use cameras produced in Japan. As a photographer, this gives me great pleasure and pride. However, despite that photography is so popular in Japan, most people don't realize it is the foundation of visual culture. In the meantime, the culture of photographic art is also steadily developing in the West and the rest of the world."
Considering that photography is popular in Japan it is indeed surprising that the link between photography and art has been overlooked. To Mr. Hosoe this is the dilemma of the art scene in Japan. "Photography is a kind of world-wide culture without genre classification like with Japanese or Western movies or music. Photography represents a form of world-wide culture without genre classification like Japanese or Western movies or music. There used to be a time when you had to be wealthy to have access to photography and cameras. But nowadays, cell phones are equipped with cameras. Anyone, even little children, can easily take pictures. The art of photography will become even more popular." The words of Mr. Hosoe, who has enjoyed many opportunities to attend overseas exhibitions and has experienced firsthand the way the art of photography is regarded in the United States and Europe, come from his heart.
The Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts will continue with a passion to promote and support young photographers based on the idea of "Expressing oneself through photography." Not to mention, that with the increasing innovations of the times, expectations are that it will become an even more energetic and experimental information base for photographic art.

Born in Yonezawa City, Yamagata Prefecture in 1933 and raised in Tokyo. He has been in the limelight for his aesthetic and fantastical worldview expressed in work such as "Ordeal by Roses" with Yukio Mishima, and "Kamaitachi" with butoh dancer Tatsumi Hijikata set in a rural village in Akita Prefecture. He has been the director of K'MoPA since 1995, and was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star in 2017. Professor Emeritus of Tokyo Polytechnic University.