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Hiroh Kikai and His Portraits of Kings

A Photographer Waiting for Someone in Asakusa

Everyday Hiroh Kikai makes his way to a red wall in Asakusa. Here he waits for someone to pass by. What he is looking for is both abstract and fluid. Somedays he will shoot four or five portraits, others none. The result is a series of photographs, spanning forty years, that speak of the universal and essential nature of what it means to be a human being.

Satoshi Taguchi interviewed Kakai in the latest issue of Nepenthes in Print.

What kind of people are you waiting for?

“It’s not easy for me to explain what kind of people I’d like to photograph. They may have to be a kind of clue for us to understand what a human being is. I don’t just photograph quirky people. They should have something very deep inside, otherwise the series of photographs will look like a fancy dress parade. A portrait photo has to express the object’s lifelong history. Unabiding, flimsy ones shouldn’t be called portraits, I think.”

There are photos that captured nothing while his portraits depict ‘something’ inside the objects as his camera and lens enchant it. Then what’s ‘something’ in his photography? The answer is tantalizingly out of reach, but there is a clue.

“When I held an exhibition in Poland, Andrezej Wajda visited the venue with his wife for two days in a row. And he asked me if the people in my photographs were all Japanese. After I told him yes, he quietly said: ‘How similar we are.’”

Images and text from Nepenthes in Print #2

-Envoy of Belfast