ONWARD ‘11 Japan closed this past Sunday at Ricoh’s photo gallery RING CUBE in Tokyo. Tsuyoshi Ito, Project Basho’s Founder and Program Director, flew to Tokyo to attend the exhibition and had the chance to catch up with some of the photographers that were selected for the show including Pierfrancesco Celada.
Pierfrancesco is the recipient of the ONWARD ‘11 West Collection Purchase Award for his photograph, “The Phone, Tokyo.” Recently, he won the Ideastap/Magnum Photo award for photojournalism. He is currently working on an ongoing series of photographs involving the notion of isolation and solitude in modern metropolitan cities. To hear more about his projects, listen to his interview with Tsuyoshi Ito while they caught up in Tokyo. You can also view more of Pierfrancesco’s images on his website: www.pierfrancescocelada.com/
Tsuyoshi Ito: So, Pierfrancesco we are in Ginza, right underneath the Ricoh gallery. What did you think about the show?
Pierfrancesco Celada: It was really good, I’ve previously seen the space and have seen also the ONWARD exhibition. It’s quite fascinating that it comes from the other side of the world. Great work.
TI: So what is the ONWARD competition to you as a young photographer who is trying to establish their name? What does it give you?
PC: What I found was most important for me was the level of exposure that I received after ONWARD. I often check the statistics for my website and I’ve seen a much higher number of people coming to my website through ONWARD, so this is great. Its basically what is necessary to maximize exposure. Its the good part of the new technologies, nowadays everything is available. So you need these kinds of platforms in order to be seen by as many people as possible.
TI: How long have you been working on the Japan section of your Project?
PC: The first picture of the Japanese project was in 2009. So I did two trips in 2010 and this is the first trip in 2011. Hopefully I’m nearly there.
TI: And the picture that was in ONWARD that was taken in Tokyo?
PC: That was in maybe May 2010.
TI: Tell us about the idea behind that picture?
PC: There were two businessmen talking on the phone and it looks like they are perhaps communicating with each other, but obviously they are not. Basically there are different layers of division between these two men. In society nowadays, there are certain imaginary infrastructures between individuals. So you have your mobile, which is a way of communicating but it also separates you from other people around you. It is a kind of protection and if you don’t want to communicate you can even mimic using your mobile; not in order to communicate but to create a sort of invisible cloak around you.
TI: And the picture was divided by a glass structure.
PC: Yes, the glass and handrails-a series of elements that increases the distance between these two people. They are also on two separate levels which symbolizes the maximization of distance between two individuals. Also, since everything is glass, though they look close there is an infrastructure in between that makes them apart.
TI: So in a way technology, like a mobile phone or even modern architecture, is a way of dividing human connection.
PC: I visited Japan for the first time a couple of years ago and was really fascinated by the distance I was experiencing and perceiving between me and other people.
At the beginning, I thought it was because I was a foreigner and was not able to speak the language. I thought that was the reason why I was feeling alone myself. Then I start believing that maybe other people living in this gigantic city were also feeling a similar sense of isolation. So I decided to come back and spend more time trying to visualize this idea of isolation in a place where there is a really high concentration of people living together.
TI: You said isolation. Is it like a physical distance or more metaphorical?
PC: I would say more metaphorical. I was spending my day walking around, spending time on the metro system and watching people of service. So I start asking myself, Where are you going? What’s your name? What’s your plan? What have you been doing? What’s your origin?
Really simple questions. You will see people in their own mind or spending time with their mobile, rather than conversing with you. So I would say it’s a metaphoric form of isolation rather than physical. I don’t mean that in a bad way, just isolation in the sense of being alone. Its not negative because you might have a family at home waiting for you, but in your daily routine, when you are outside, you are alone.
The question now is to see whether this kind of attitude will also appear in other big cities worldwide. I started doing a similar project in London and the answer is no, perhaps, thank god. It seems London is more open towards strangers. It is easier to have a conversation and to interact.
But, in the 70s japan was labeled as country suffering from “western society disease”, so that is why I wanted to use it as a comparison point. Starting with the Japan and trying to see in other cultures if there is something similar or perhaps something completely opposite.
TI: You also are trying to experiment with self publishing, tell me about this book project that you did
PC: I just published a book called INSIDEOUT: the Bigg Market which is self -published with blurb. It’s a print-on-demand company so if someone want to buy the book they can go online and purchase it. Its a very good way of investing little and gaining visibility. It is also available as a preview online if somebody want to have a look so its another way of showing your work on the web. Everything goes all around the world at the moment so its better to be there than not to be there.
TI: That’s great. Thank you.