4 Jan 2021, Self-portrait in a looking glass, Kawasaki
2 Jan. 2015, A New Year Dish, Kawasaki
2 Jun. 2021, Bamboo, Kawasaki
5 Feb. 2022, At a Quarantine Hotel, Yokohama
1 May 2022
21 Sept. 2022, Apples, Suomenlinna, Helsinki
Takashi Arai is one of only few photographers who capture images using the daguerreotype, one of the oldest photographic techniques.
Arai came across the technique while researching the origins of photography. After mastering the daguerreotype through trial and error, he adopted it as his medium of choice. Captured on silver-plated copper, his images—“little monuments”—transcend time and space to convey his impressions of the time he spent with his subjects.
His continued interest in the “nuclear” as a subject of his photography was spurred by two encounters in particular: the photobook 100 Suns by Michael Light about nuclear bomb experiments conducted between 1945 and 1962, and the Daigo Fukuryu Maru, a Japanese fishing vessel caught in the fallout of a nuclear bomb test in 1954, which he photographed for a project in 2010. Further, Arai is acutely aware of the fact that photography is, by its nature, always of the past. However, in his 2019 series Tomorrow’s History Arai explored the simple question “Can we predict the future?” by portraying and interviewing young people in his native Japan. The conceptual foundations of Arai’s artworks serve as a framework in which to examine the relationships with others and society, and to search for ways to live within the complexities of history.
Takashi Arai’s exhibition Quotidian Mirrors at PGI is composed of works from his ongoing Daily D-Type Project series and celebrates the upcoming release of his book One Hundred Suns / One Hundred Mirrors — At the Shore of Photographs and Memories.
The Daily D-Type Project series is an ongoing project that Arai started in 2011. The project overlaps with the disaster-stricken decade of the 2010s and documents the many shapes of life amidst catastrophes like the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, a global pandemic, and increasing social instability.
According to Arai, “The word ‘daily’ contains within it a sense of gradual accumulation or progress. But every time I wake up and make a new daguerreotype image, it feels as if I start from zero. This feeling has not changed or faded since I began. I believe this feeling corresponds more and more with the sense of instability that has been shrouding our daily lives since the 2010s, as the world continues to reset its rules.”
One Hundred Suns / One Hundred Mirrors — At the Shore of Photographs and Memories is Takashi Arai’s first essay collection. In photographs and texts, Arai examines his own self, his impurities, and the real and unreal. Writing, for him, meant confronting his body and his personal world.
We hope you enjoy the photographs documenting the unforeseeable nature of daily life, as well as the words that emerged from this practice.
“Who are you? asked a man’s voice from the other end of the line. What do you do for work? His soft voice, weathered by countless conversations with customers over the years, reached past all defenses into an unprotected part of me. I had no idea how to answer him.”
— Takashi Arai, “One Hundred Suns / One Hundred Mirrors — At the Shore of Photographs and Memories”, Iwanami Shoten (scheduled for July 2023)
Whenever I am photographing or doing anything else, the words are always flowing, subconsciously, like a river that lives in the culverts of a city.
In the midst of the pandemic, I had the opportunity to write a book. The only thing I can really say about it is that it is about myself and consists of texts about photographs and images, about journeys, about people I cannot forget and about my disobedient body. Alone at night, I embrace the unconnectedness, the uncertainty of disparate voices and landscapes from my past twenty years, and respond with images and words.
Before long, the day rises again, and in between the sun and the mirrors today’s world reveals its shape. Somewhere within the mirrors, I search for who I am to be today.
English translation by Robert Zetzsche
Born in Kawasaki, Japan, in 1978, Arai currently lives and works in Kawasaki and Berlin.
While exploring the origins of photography, Arai encountered the daguerreotype, one of the earliest photographic techniques, and mastered this technique after much trial and error. He has used the daguerreotype as his medium as micro-monuments: image-objects that vividly convey to the viewer the sensation of engaging with events/subjects in a way that transcends time and space.
In 2010, when Arai first became interested in nuclear history, he encountered the hull of the Daigo Fukuryu Maru and its former crew. Since then, he has engaged with the subjects to portray in Fukushima, Nagasaki, and Hiroshima. In recent years, he has been involved in interdisciplinary activities such as filmmaking, writing, and collaborative research. Arai received numerous awards, including the Source Code Prize (Solas Prize) in 2014, the UK, the 41st Kimura Ihei Photography Award in 2016, and the Grand Prize in the Short Film Category at the 72nd Salerno International Film Festival in 2018. His works are in the collections of the Smithsonian Museums, MFA Boston, SFMOMA, MOMA Tokyo, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Guimet Museum, and other museums. His monographs include Hyaku no Taiyo / Hyaku no Kagami – Syashin to Kioku no Migiwa (One Hundred Suns / One Hundred Mirrors – On the Shore of Photography and Memory) (Iwanami Shoten, to be published July 2023), MONUMENTS (PGI, 2015), and others.