Tokuko Ushioda

My Husband

Jan 26 - Mar 12, 2022
PGI

Tokuko Ushioda

My Husband

Jan 26 - Mar 12, 2022
PGI

  • ©Tokuko Ushioda

  • ©Tokuko Ushioda

  • ©Tokuko Ushioda

  • ©Tokuko Ushioda

  • ©Tokuko Ushioda

  • ©Tokuko Ushioda

  • ©Tokuko Ushioda

 

Tokuko Ushioda enrolled in the Kuwasawa Design School in 1960 and studied with distinguished photographers Yasuhiro Ishimoto and Kiyoji Otsuji before graduating in 1963. Ushioda began her career as a photographer around 1975. Shinzo Shimao, a 1974 graduate of Tokyo Zokei University, and Ushioda were both students of Otsuji, though they did not cross paths for a few years. Ushioda and Shimao had a child and were married in 1978.

Ushioda’s distinct style is rooted in her studies with Ishimoto and Otsuji, whose influence is visible in her work of this period. As Ushioda adapted to her changed life as a newlywed and mother to a young child, the need for artistic growth of her own seems to have come into clear focus. Her husband, Shimao, a charismatic yet cynical artist, was routinely photographing scenes of family life, so Ushioda’s individuality was put to the test when she set out to do the same yet differentiate her work from his. This challenge resulted in a pivotal moment for her as an artist. Ushioda’s signature manner of looking, which dates to this period, captures the humanity that lurks in the background of material things; her images are diffused not with nostalgia, but with a tempered precision. ICE BOX, considered one of her masterworks, was also created during this fertile time. My Husbandchronicles Ushioda’s family life and artistic growth, and it also outlines decisive moments in the development of Japan’s photographic enterprises, such as Japan’s first commercial photo gallery, Zeit-Foto Salon (1978–). Additionally, it depicts Ushioda’s peers—among them photographer Shigeo Gocho (1946–1983), critic Osamu Hiraki (1949–2009), and photo-historian Ryuichi Kaneko (1948–2001) who, like Ushioda, had a heavy hand in shaping the identity of Japanese photography and today are standard-bearers of the art form. Here they are seen through Ushioda’s eyes in their youth.

 

This exhibition features approximately 30 monochrome prints.

My husband and I had a newborn daughter; the three of us had just started our life together in a one-room rental, on the second floor of an old, wood-frame, two-story Western-style house. Neither I nor my husband had a lot of work, so every day was like a day off. Therefore, we spent most of our time at home, with not much else to do other than nap and bask in the abundant sun that poured in from the large, south-facing window. That life, which we led forty years ago, has now turned into a series of photographs. But that is only because the landlord who rented the place to us, who lived on the first floor, happened to move out after many years. Our scattered life, represented by our scattered belongings, was still in storage in that house. The heaps of souvenirs that we brought home from many trips to China, among other things, had to be moved someplace else. And in the midst of that cleaning process, we happened to find my negatives and prints from that period in our life.

 

Me and my memories, once completely forgotten, were thus reunited. They were trapped inside the boxes of silver gelatin photo-paper. Now I can remember things like the Bronica S2, a camera which today I find too heavy to carry, and the much lighter 35mm single lens reflex that allowed me to take pictures aimlessly, lightheartedly, carefree. In our makeshift kitchen that looked like a playhouse set, we used a lid from a sweets container as our cutting-board and a small fruit knife for preparing our meals. We used rags to clean the long, narrow hallway’s wooden planks, racing in a straight line on all fours, just like cleaning duty back in grade school. Breaking a little sweat gave me a glimmer of pride in the task accomplished. 

 

Each day, after night fell and residents of the house were fast asleep, our refrigerator made a loud rumble, followed by odd singing sounds. Hearing that awoke inside me my unknown worries about nothing in particular, yet about everything in the future. After some time, the moon and stars would fade into the distance. Outside of our large window with no curtains was a dark forest that I would stare at. Soon enough, I would drift into sleep.

 

Tokuko Ushioda

Tokuko Ushioda

Born in Tokyo, Japan. Tokuko Ushioda studied under Kiyoji Otsuji at Kuwasawa Design School and graduated in 1963. She taught at Kuwasawa Design School and Tokyo Zokei University from 1966 to 1978. She has worked as a freelance photographer since 1975. In 2018 her Bibliotheca series won the Domon Ken Award, the Photographic Society of Japan’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the Higashikawa International Photo Festival’s Domestic Photographer Award. Other representative works include ICE BOX, in which she photographed the contents of various families’ refrigerators.