Japan is thousands of miles away from the Western world where photography was born, but its scene is thriving. Despite the first ever camera reaching its shores 15 years after it was invented, its manufacturers lead the world in camera and printing technology, and from the radical photographers of PROVOKE, to cutting-edge work by the country’s rising stars, its practitioners are internationally recognised and respected. It’s no surprise then that Japan’s photofestivals are no different in quality or flare.
Set within the ancient city of Kyoto, among countless temples, shrines, and imperial palaces, is Japan’s largest international photofestival, Kyotographie. This year the festival, which runs from 13 April to 12 May, returns for the seventh time, catching the last of the cherry blossoms – an important season in Japanese culture that symbolises renewal and the fleeting nature of life.
Kyotographie was set up by husband-and-wife, Franco-Japanese duo Lucille Reyboz, a photographer, and Yusuke Nakanishi, a lighting director. This year’s theme is VIBE, described by the organisers as “a distinctive emotional atmosphere, something sensed intuitively and deeply connected to our mood. Vibes rush over you when you meet a person, confront a memory or event, visit a place, hear a piece of music, or remember a time. These invisible waves, both positive and negative alter our experience, they either separate us or connect us”.
As always, the festival will use unique locations across the city, adding an atmospheric dimension to create shows that could only be found in Kyoto. Locations include Nijō castle, which was once home to Tokugawa Ieyasu – the first military dictator of the Edo period – and the Museum of Kyoto, as well as several experimental gallery spaces across the city, including one within the cobbled streets of Kyoto’s old town, Gion.
This year’s programme includes solo shows by Polish artist Weronika Gęsicka, and video work by Ismaïl Bahri. An important part of the festival is to promote Japanese photographers. Visual artist Teppei Kaneuji will be exhibiting new multisensory work, alongside 25-year-old emerging photographer Kenryou GU, who was the winner of the 2018 KG+ Grand Prix award.
We also see the established Japanese documentary photographer Kosuke Okahara collaborating with Italian photojournalist Paolo Pellegrin for Magnum Live Lab. Over 10 days the pair will simultaneously carry out their production process front of a live audience.
Also on the programme is a solo exhibition of work by German avant-garde photographer Alfred Ehrhard to honour the 100 year anniversary of Bauhaus. Ehrhard’s geometric photographs are exhibited in Japan for the first time at Kyotographie, and celebrate the movement’s focus on structure, material and rhythm.
This year, Cuban curator Cristina Vives has been invited to organise an exhibition titled About Her, about Me, and about Them: Cuba through the Art and Life of Three. It will exhibit work by Cuban artists Alberto Korda, René Peña, and Alejandro González, and aim to illustrate the recent history of the country.
A series of exhibitions will be presented in partnership with sponsors: choreographic images by French filmmaker and former professional dancer Benjamin Millepied will be presented by Zadig & Voltaire, and Albert Watson’s experimental portraits of celebrities will be on show with the support of BMW. Elsewhere, an intriguing exhibition titled Synonyms will bring together Shunga – a genre of erotic Japanese art that is receiving increasing international attention – with work by French performance artist and photographer Pierre Sernet, presented by Chanel Nexus Hall. Work by Brazillian artist Vik Muniz is also included in the programme in a solo show presented by Ruinart champagne.
Elsewhere, Japanese-American artist Osamu James Nakagawa presents Eclipse: 蝕 / 廻: Kai, a project based on the identity of his two home countries with images from the early 1990s to the present day. This year, Bang&Olufson will be putting together a pop-up store, where musician Marihiko Hara brings together a multi-sensory exhibition inspired by photographs of her late grandmother’s travels to Europe and the States.
Alongside the main programme is KG+, a series of citywide exhibitions dedicated to discovering and fostering talent. It includes an exhibition of 12 nominated photographers for the KG+ Grand Prix award at Junpu former elementary school – the winner will be invited to exhibit the following year – as well as shows organised by galleries, museums and schools in heritage houses, traditional shops, temples and historic sites.
www.kyotographie.jp Kyotographie International Photo Festival 2019 will run from 13 April to 12 May. Tickets are priced at ¥4000/¥3000 (Adult/Student) for a Passport Ticket – valid for the duration of the festival ––or ¥3000/¥2000 for a single day ticket. Individual tickets to each exhibition can be purchased at the venues.