New Japan, Old Japan / Kyoto intl photo festival a cultural crossroads

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Nobuyoshi Araki’s series “A Desktop Love” is on display at Ryosokuin in Kenninji temple in Kyoto on April 15.

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun PhotographerKYOTO — An international photography festival called Kyotographie started on April 15 in Kyoto, one of the biggest cities of traditional culture in the world.

Precious artworks and brilliant collections by photographers from Japan and around the world are being exhibited in historic buildings, including a temple and machiya residences, as well as modern architectural spaces. Various related events such as lectures and workshops are also being held. Even as photography festivals become more common in various parts of the world, few such festivals are held in Japan.

The first Kyotographie was organized by Yusuke Nakanishi, a Japanese lighting director, and Lucille Reyboz, a French photographer, in 2013. They organized the festival using an international photography festival held in Arles in France as a reference.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    People look at works by Arnold Newman displayed at Ninomaru Palace Daidokoro kitchen in Nijo Castle.

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    A woman takes photos of an installation by Italian art magazine “Toiletpaper” during a press preview at an art gallery in Kyoto.

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    The entrance of Mumeisha, a machiya residence and one of the venues

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Artwork by Hong Kong-based artist Yan Kallen is projected onto the wall in the kitchen in the Mumeisha machiya residence.

“There are few places in Japan for excellent photographers to show their work,” Reyboz, 43, said. “So I wanted to create a bridge to introduce photographers in Japan to the world, as well as photographers abroad to Japan.”

Nakanishi, 48, said, “I wanted to provide a festival where artists from around the world could gather, exchange information and take it back to their own countries.” Thus, they chose Kyoto as the festival’s home because “Kyoto is an attractive city that people across the world want to visit once in their lifetime.”

“In addition to rich history and tradition, the city also has an avant-garde side,” Nakanishi said. “By utilizing temples and machiya residences, more people will come to the festival.”

A total of about 250,000 people are said to have attended the previous festivals.

The theme of the fifth festival is “Love.” They hope the festival will be conducive to making the world a more peaceful place — even if only a little — by “sharing the Love” via photos. Sixteen venues host this year’s exhibitions.

A freelance cameraman in his 40s from Suginami Ward, Tokyo, who visited a venue at Nijo Castle on a one-day trip, said: “Honestly, I just came for a related event. But seeing photos exhibited in historic structures further inspired me.”

Entry fees range from free to ¥1,000 depending on the venue. Passport tickets are also on sale. The festival will run through May 14.

(New Japan, Old Japan is a series exclusive to The Japan News) Speech

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