Roberto Badin’s latest series shows the vivid beauty and “underlying loneliness”of Japan
In collaboration with publisher Benjamin Blanck, the photographer's new book Inside Japan gives character to empty space and finds the cinematic of the in-between.
- Harry Bennett
- 18 November 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
Born in Rio De Janeiro, photographer Roberto Badin grew up dreaming about Japan, telling us “ the internet didn’t exist yet and Japan was like a distant planet,” with his only references being Japanese cartoons and television series. In 2016 he made his first trip to these sacred shores, leaving with such an infatuation that he planned another trip on his arrival back home, finding himself in discussion with the publisher Benjamin Blanck about the prospect of a collated photobook. Making the return in 2018 to complete the project, Roberto was determined to keep the same innocence and curiosity he approached the country with the first time. The result is his latest series Inside Japan, a collection of striking, structural work that displays the candid stoicism of a fascinating country.
Renowned for never posing a photograph, Roberto tells us “I don't really believe in chance,” in discussing the arrangement of his photographs. “I think we have to be at the right place at the right time,” he remarks, finding it particularly exciting when “all the images are taken on the spot,” often resulting in a single wholly individual image. With a great sense of intuition, Roberto is instinctively drawn to space; be it large open areas with minimal people or the space found on an empty soda. In doing so Roberto uniquely makes space a character in its own right, becoming the protagonist of most scenes, leaving the explanation to our own imagination. “I believe in the strength of the imaginary of a photo,” Roberto explains, “rather than in the descriptive action of narrative.”
There is an elegance to Roberto’s work, where we are often hit with a feeling of intrigue and a potent sense of the cinematic. Citing film-makers such as David Lynch as inspiration, it is no wonder why there is such an uncanny and surreal beauty to the work, be it the vividly striking colours of taxis or frozen halls of a sterile hospital scene. Finding Tarantino-esque, semi-voyeuristic, moments across his journey, such as cigarette smoke enveloped faces in the early hours of the morning, there is no doubt of a filmic fascination bleeding through the work Roberto produces.
A common thread throughout Inside Japan is the country's architecture and contemporary art scene; the end result of Roberto literally losing himself in the culture and finding unlikely, uncommon inspirations in the new spaces he wandered into. The subsequent photographs, although obviously representative of Japan, have a sense of biography as well; almost making the absence of Roberto apparent in the image with his emotive interpretation in place of his person. “Sometimes my images can reflect darkness,” he explains, “I do not know if it’s necessarily a desired emotion.”
Often struck by the emptiness of the environment, where we find ourselves painfully aware of the lack of people, Roberto notes that despite the crowded and bustling nature found across Japan there is an “underlying loneliness,” to the country – often mistaken for “a form of a calm and serene feeling”. The complexity of the country left Roberto with a specific salient impression, explaining that his state of mind is “half-way between nostalgia and admiration”.
GalleryRoberto Badin: Inside Japan (© Roberto Badin, 2020)
Roberto Badin: Inside Japan (© Roberto Badin, 2020)
About the Author
After graduating from Winchester School of Art, studying graphic arts, Harry worked as a graphic designer before joining It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in March 2020. He nows works as a freelance writer and designer, and is one half of Studio Ground Floor.