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Friday, May 14, 2010

French lenses focus on Japan

Staff writer

Has life become easier for Tokyo-based expatriate photographers?

News photo
Out look: An expatriate's image of Japan from the show at L'Institut Franco-Japonais de Tokyo. FLORIAN RUIZ PHOTO

Fifteen years ago the ultimate goal was to have your work shown in local galleries, museums or print publications — language skills and carefully nurtured contacts were the currency to achieve it. Now it seems the challenge is choosing from the plethora of online, English- interfaced options where you can showcase your work: a blog, Flickr, Twitter, The Japan Times' own Tokyo.JapanTimes.co.jp Web site — and many more.

The parallel challenge for the curious viewer is knowing where and what to look at. Hence the pleasure derived from the current exhibition of work by Japan-based French photographers at L'Institut Franco-Japonais de Tokyo. A freelance curator, Christine Cibert, has done the hard work for us, choosing a selection of work by 10 photographers — many of whom have been working here for well over a decade.

Claude Estebe, who came to Japan in 1994, directs his lens at a rarely discussed aspect of Japanese femininity: the way Japanese women sit, stand and otherwise hold their bodies, in particular the traditionally deferential uchimata stance (inelegantly translated as "pigeon-toed") and its contemporary manifestations.

The 54-year-old Benoit Dupuis has made a long-running series of photographs of the so-called "homeless," who call the broad banks of the Arakawa River, in Tokyo's east, their home. Emmanuel Guillaud, who was born in 1970 and last year showed at the respected G/P gallery, presents a series on manga cafes.

The quality of Cibert's choices is evident in each artist's work — one of each of which is on display in print, while others are in slideshows on screens.

"Des photographes, des Japons" continues at L'Institut Franco-Japonais de Tokyo, near Iidabashi Station, until May 23. Admission free.

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