Monday, Jun 29, 2020
Another absolutely thrilling example of how Nagashima uses the camera’s power is provided by Self-Portraits, a newly released collection of photographs. At the occasion of her retrospective at the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum in 2017, the photographs were shown as a 30 minute slide show with more than 600 images, spanning 24 years (1992-2016). In the book, they are distilled down to a smaller number, presented chronologically.
The earliest photograph shows a young, serious looking backpacker, her face turned to the camera, while the rest of her body is ready to walk off onto some trip. The following photographs employ a variety of approaches to the picture making that continues throughout the book: pictures of reflections in mirrors, pictures of the artist’s shadow, pictures that either used a camera’s self timer or cable release.
There’s a break from black and white to colour, and immediately, the photographs become more deliberate — deliberate in the sense that the artist appears to have started focusing on her intent. A lot of the posing now adopts conventions (if that’s the word to use) that culturally have become established as the ways young women are supposed to be photographed: as sex objects, offering themselves up to male viewers.
The very obvious control that Nagashima exerts over the photographs manages to have the viewer not fall into the trap of seeing a sex object but, instead, to think of the fact that what is presented is a convention, a convention that reduces half of the population to photographic passivity, to define them through the eyes of the other half (the sexualized male gaze).