For the better late than never files: Two Sights Past by Mika Kitamura and Yuki Watanabe.
Bambinart Gallery has been working to give young artists exposure in Tokyo. Two Sights Past was an exhibition held there back in January and February of this year, a continuation of an ongoing collaborative project between Mika Kitamura and Yuki Watanabe. Part of a larger series of work dating back to 2002, Two Sights Past received its first major recognition in 2006 from Kotaro Izawa in the Canon New Cosmos of Photography.
In their own words in regards to this project:
I think longing and envy is what motivated me to first photograph her.
And I remember that before we were friends I mostly photographed her on the sly. But at that time affection and the desire of possess mingles when the distance between us accidentally diminished. Over four years – a long-time yet short all the same – we changed more than a little and so naturally the way we took pictures of each other changed too. Were I a painter I don’t think I would paint her, and if I were a sculptor I don’t think I would sculpt her. Always looking at her from the same distance, I learned both the joy and hardship of continuously photographing the same person. I now realize that this feeling is something only photography can capture. And so with affection I will gaze upon her with these mingled feelings of affection and jealousy, of superiority, inferiority, and love. And I will capture them all in a single photograph. I think that everything is okay.
first encountered her when I was 20 and that is already 4 years ago*. We spent more and more time together, and yet while our time together is more precious than anything it is with conflicting emotions that we photograph each other. Even now these emotions change, surface, and vanish.
And though the temperature difference of emotion may stay under the surface, she is a constant presence. I believe continuing things will discover some things. Over time our surroundings, relationships, emotions, will inevitably change. The preciousness and hardship of being together, the joy of having met. And I hope that we can change time into form. I thank her for my feeling this way.
*4 years in 2006, which would be 9 years now. Seeing as how time keeps flowing, that puts these ladies nearly halfway to a point Izawa mentions in his statement of selection:
The photos wonderfully capture the passage of time. David Armstrong and Nan Goldin have done work based on the same approach, so what they are doing is not completely new. Still, the photos are a pleasure to look at. The relationship between them has a sister-like quality that conveys a sense that they share a great many things. Their photographic technique is about the same level, which I think gives the work good balance. They’re both young, and they have not been shooting each other for very long. If they’re still doing this in 20 years they will have created something truly exceptional.
Is the series exceptional yet? Certainly in its overall beauty. Time is dealt with loosely with the resulting images being less formal than the obviously more well known series of the Brown sisters, another set of images which invite comparison. While it’s not imperative to know that the exhibition at Bambinart is essentially a pretty waypoint on an attractive photographic timeline, that external context can put things in perspective to provide further contemplation/enjoyment of the work.
Some meta-context would be this: This particular exhibition was of pictures Mika and Yuki took in Budapest, Hungary while visiting a gallery there that exhibited their earlier Two Sights Past portfolio in 2009. In some of the newer images you can see their earlier photos framed in the background. Such a vortex of self-referencing creation would make Michael Gondry proud. I find the lightheartedness and beauty of the images something worth enjoying. Such elements of this project counters more “serious” portfolios which depend on overwrought forced intellectualism/conceptualism as a reason to exist. Two attractive and skilled women photographing each other in Budapest? I can see no problems with this.
The Bambinart exhibition was composed of monochrome and color inkjet prints from their Hungry trip pinned as a grid on the wall. Two larger framed prints (seen in the top two images above) served as an anchor/introduction to the rest of the show.
A small collection of pictures accompanied the exhibition. These “prints” were inkjet-made, the same as what was pinned on the wall, although fewer in number. Orders were placed and and paid for at the gallery and were sent out a few weeks later.
I’ve mentioned before that in Japanese the term Photobook 「写真集」 shashinshu is comprised of three kanji. The first two mean “Photograph” with the last one detonating “collection”. Unlike the term “Book”, no binding is guaranteed or implied. Mika and Yuki submitted a thick handmade bound book with several hundred pages to the Canon New Cosmos back in 2006 (sadly it fell apart as a stream of visitors flipped through it every day for 3 weeks) but this current little collection of Two Sights Past is different. Coming in at thirty 5×7 sized “pages” (six fewer than a roll of film) it is concise, sweet, and a glimpse at even better things to come.