Osamu Yokonami photographically explores the concept of anonymity
Continuing his series which explores the idea of feeling anonymous, we catch up with the Japanese photographer on his latest investigation.
- Lucy Bourton
- 19 November 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
A continuation of Japanese photographer Osamu Yokonami’s Mizugi and Assembly series, in which the photographer spends a day photographing a group of individuals meticulously posed, Kumo is the artist’s latest venture in portraying the idea of anonymity photographically.
Although a concept that often only refers to an individual, for Osamu, gathering together a group who wear meticulously planned costumes and never look directly at the camera is a better representation of the word. The series often focusing on a group of young women. “When the girls don’t show their faces, and wear the same uniforms, they become a non-identity,” he tells It’s Nice That. Adding that he believes that in reality, “no one can live alone”, Kumo like Mizugi and Assembly again places Osamu’s subjects among nature. An impactful swarm of uniform-wearing characters take up the whole frame in the photographs they star in, showcasing the photographer’s belief that “in nature, a group of people is more powerful than an individual.”
Taking this idea and running with contrast throughout the series, Kumo (also a new title published by Libraryman) flits between these striking photographs of Osamu’s cast and swooping birds that fly above them. Purposefully showing the power of these young women as a defiant group, on shoot days, Osamu always leads with the instruction that the women should not show their faces, “because I want to make it anonymous,” he says. To add a sense of unease or to intrigue the viewer even further, the photographer asks each of his subjects to replicate the very same pose, “however it’s not 100 per cent the same every time,” he adds. “Sometimes individuality and unexpected moments are also interesting for me. I believe that life doesn’t always go the way we want it.”
Discussing these days with his subjects, Osamu recalls he would often ask them each to run and jump “because I wanted to see more character since it would not be 100 per cent the same in each shot.” This in turn creates a balance of anonymity and individual character (for those who look close enough) in each of the photographs featured. “They were motivated in the beginning, but got tired finally since I asked them to do a lot of actions,” Osamu continues of his subjects. “I felt they were bored, and we took good care of them. After they went home their parents said they enjoyed every moment. It was a surreal experience for them.”
In turn, within the group shots, as a viewer, you can’t help but try to spot the difference in Osamu’s planned image. In shots where the girl’s back are turned, it’s posture that differentiates one from another, some with their back’s arched or overly straightened – as we often tend to when we know our photograph is being taken. In others, where Osamu asked them to cover their faces, minor details add to the character, as the girls quickly fold one arm over the other to obstruct their view. These poses are also led by how “I feel on the spot, on the day,” Osamu says. “This is the most important point every time I shoot. There are a lot of unexpected happenings so I change my decisions on the spot.”
Interacting with strangers, let alone gathering a cohort together to photograph, is a difficult task to manage, especially during the current pandemic. Yet the possibility of creating more work is one that appears to be spurring Osamu on. Based in Tokyo, he tells us he spent a month at home due to the restrictions of the virus. Spending time organising his photographs, taking some pictures, and spending “lots of time thinking,” this slower pace of work all pointed towards the “everyday moments in life,” says Osamu. “I want to capture the power of life and being alive,” he concludes now on both Kumo and his great photographic aims. “I feel more energised and motivated after having a lot of time to think. So, I would like to have more exhibitions and publish photobooks in the near future. For now, however, you can pick up an edition of Kumo here.
Osamu Yokonami: Kumo (Copyright © Osamu Yokonami and Libraryman, 2020)
About the Author
Lucy joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In October 2016 she became a staff writer on the editorial team and in January 2019 was made It’s Nice That’s deputy editor. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about new and upcoming creative projects or editorial ideas for the site.