Men are Beautiful

The photographs in this collection are mainly snapshots taken on the streets of Tokyo. As taking snapshots has become increasingly difficult in recent years there is a tendency for them to appear more portrait-like. There are some photographs that were taken during occasional trips abroad and others that were taken in bars or restaurants. The street is a public place where anybody can go to see and be seen, while bars and restaurants are locations that I am able to enter freely.

 

Having made up my mind to photograph men, I went out onto the streets; I did not limit my subjects to people I found attractive as members of the opposite sex, but rather made a point of releasing the shutter whenever I saw somebody who shone as a human being. Most of the pictures were taken in Tokyo, so why is it that the majority of them feature people who appear to be foreign? The fact is that many foreigners can be seen in Tokyo today, there are numerous tourists and many others who work here.

 

It could be postulated that this dearth of Japanese men is due to them losing their appeal. It may be because the attraction of Japanese men lies in their restraint, or alternatively it may just be due to my taste. Of course, attractive Japanese men do exist, but looking at people in Tokyo in 2016, both men and women seem to worry too much about how they appear to others, preventing their individual attraction from expressing itself.

 

The reason why I decided to photograph men was that I want to use my personal technique, which is to say, street snapshots, to verify ‘beauty’. Historically speaking, beauty, as a subject has been limited to women but others have since worked to enlarge the scope of the genre and I was eager to participate, even if only in a minor role.

More than forty years have passed since the American photographer, Garry Winogrand published the photobook entitled, ‘Women are Beautiful’. This book included a short story in which a woman described various events in her life that she had found intolerable. Why should it be that living in 21st century Japan I am still able to share her emotions? I may be uncool, but I never hesitate to put my emotions into words. It is not something that is ‘too late’ to say. It is said that time goes around and it is possible that we are in the preliminary stages of a new cycle.

 

It is extremely difficult to say, ‘I am a feminist’. There is an invisible but firm pressure on us not to do so. However, people who believe that men and women are equal are unquestionably feminists and I believe that this represents a good starting point.

これらの写真はおもに東京の路上で撮影したスナップ写真である。スナップ写真というのが難しい時代でポートレイト的な写真が増えた。時折訪れる海外で撮影した写真があるのと、バーやレストランなどで撮影した写真もすこしある。路上は誰でもがそこに行って、自由に見たり見られたりする公共空間であるし、飲食店も私が一人で自由に出入りできる場所だ。

私は男性の写真を撮ろうとだけ決めて街を歩き、異性としての魅力だけでない何か人としてのきらめきのようなものを感じたときにシャッターを切るように心がけた。ほとんどが東京で撮影した写真なのに外国人らしき人が多い写真群になったのはどうしてだろうか。実際、東京には今たくさんの外国人がいる。観光客が多いし、働いている人も多い。

これが仮設だが、日本人男性の魅力が減少しているのではないだろうか。日本人の魅力は比較的奥ゆかしいものであるだろうし、私の好みがあるかもしれない。そして魅力のある日本人男性はもちろん存在する。しかし2016年の東京は男性も女性も何だか人目を気にして、個人の魅力が自然にあらわれるような雰囲気ではないのだ。

なぜ男性の写真を撮ろうと思ったのかは「美しさ」の対象について私のやり方、すなわちストリートスナップで確認したかったからだ。歴史的に美しさの対象はおおむねが女性だったが、美しさの範疇を広げる作品が先達により作られてきた。そこに私もすこしでも加担しなくてはならないと思ったのだ。

 

アメリカ人の写真家、ゲリー・ウィノグランドの写真集「Women are Beautiful」が刊行されてからすでに40年余りが経っている。写真集に添えられた短編小説には女性が人生の折々に感じるやりきれない場面が描かれている。その感情を21世紀の日本で私が共有できるのはなぜだろうか。私は無粋であろうとも怠らず言葉にする。これは「今さら」の話ではない。時代は回るというけれど、今は一回りする前の時代なのではないだろうか。

 

「自分はフェミニストだ」と言うことすら相当に難しい。見えないが確固とした圧力がある。男性と女性が平等だと思っている人は性別も何も問わず誰でも皆フェミニストだ。まずは、それくらいに考えてみてはどうだろうか。

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蔵 真墨

2016 秋

Masumi Kura

Autumn 2016