Interview with Japanese photographer Hiroh Kikai

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A man wearing four watches, 1987 © Hiroh Kikai

Japanese photographer Hiroh Kikai is making a rare appearance in Paris for Paris Photo, signing his outstanding new book, Asakusa Portraits. Here is an excerpt of what Kikai told Marc Feustel in an interview:

“I started off by taking several manual labor jobs: truck driver, dock worker… and I was able to survive on half of my salary. I was aware of the fact that I lacked photographic experience. I was still immersed in my philosophy studies at the time, and I began to think about the following concept: the essential thing was not the camera but the act of looking. You had to look again and again until you could feel the essence of everything that was around you.
The concept was good, but I needed some way of putting it into practice. . .”

Read the full interview in Lens Culture.

Hiroh Kikai was born in Yamagata, Japan in 1945. He began to take photographs when the influential editor Shoji Yamagishi showed him photographs by Diane Arbus in 1969. The Hasselblad camera that he bought at the time is the camera that he still uses today. He became a freelance photographer in 1984. Living close to Asakusa in Tokyo, he often spent time there and the area became the location for a series of portraits that he has been shooting for over 30 years. Kikai’s other photographic subjects include working and residential neighborhoods in and near Tokyo, and street scenes in India and Turkey. His latest book, Asakusa Portraits, was published in 2008 by Steidl and the International Center of Photography.

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