COMMISSIONED JUDGE, MICHAEL DOONEY ON KENTARO TAKAHASHI, THE WINNER OF THE NINETH RPS GRANT
Returning to Japan in 2011 after five years living in the USA and Canada, Kentaro Takahashi decided to pursue photography following the major earth quakes of 11th March 2011. After this disaster he realised that the world is full of uncertainty and life shouldn’t be taken for granted; causing him not only to question his own purpose in life, sense of values and mortality but also reflect on contemporary Japanese life and cultural identity.
Through his research of Japanese history Kentaro discovered Mount Fuji rises beyond the mist over the Tamagawa (Tama River) by Katsushika Hokusai. The Tama River, which appears throughout Japanese art history, is one of two major rivers that flow near to Tokyo. Coincidentally it also flows through his hometown, though he had not visited it previously. The connection of the river to both Japanese cultural history and Kentaro’s own personal heritage, make it an ideal backdrop against which he proposes questions about Japan’s future.
The Riverbed presents the observer with a selection of landscapes that show typical life along the Tama River, broken up with small details which show signs of human presence – folding chairs chained to a tree, a path worn through the grass, or an isolated shanty. Interspersed are portraits which span the full range of ages and demographics – a young couple having a picnic, elderly women on a park bench, private school boys on their way home and a squatter hanging out his washing. All appear equally apathetic to their situations. Perhaps not only to their own immediate surroundings, but also the greater political landscape in contemporary Japan.
One particular image in The Riverbed which resonates with Kentaro’s question about the future of Japan, is the photo of the small child. Juxtaposed behind a balustrade, she, the next generation, is simultaneously protected from harm and trapped inside an existing structure. Will she eventually be able to decide for herself and choose to go with the river or against it? This is one of many questions that Kentaro Takahashi is investigating through his photography.