Hiro Tanaka

Winning bodies of work

Hiro Tanaka is a Japanese photographer who has spent several years living in the US. His first trip to the country, now over a decade ago, was the result of a lucky raffle win in a shopping mall in Tokyo. After claiming his prize – a free flight to America – he made his way straight to First Avenue & 7th St Entry in Minneapolis in search of the hardcore, punk, and indie rock music he had been a fan of for so long. Tanaka quickly befriended one of the bands that played at the venue and was invited to go on tour with them. He was given a camera by one of the band members and began to document this rock and roll lifestyle, going on to publish five monographs containing photos of his travels. He has also participated in residency programs in the US, Europe, and Asia, and has been the recipient of the Cosmos Arles PDF Award and the TPD Book Award, among others.

These photographs, taken from Tanaka’s photobook Chicharron, are a collection of portraits, landscapes, and still lifes from his personal travels through the US, Europe, South America, and Asia. Presented as a series of diptychs, the photos juxtapose the banal with the surreal to tap into the loss of bearings that foreign travel can bring. The highly saturated images are by turns bizarre, humorous, and jarring, evoking in the viewer the same sense of bewilderment and wanderlust that was felt by Tanaka on his journeys. He relays these moments in groups of two, suggesting connections between seemingly random frames. Separated in time and space, they are instead joined by “the atmosphere, the colours, the things you can’t see with the eye, and the things that remind you of something else.”