Thursday, March 23, 2006 Posted: 09:19 PM JST
Martin Webb has an excellent interview with Dutch photographer Hellen van Meene about her images of young Tokyo women. Van Meene visited Tokyo for the first time in 2000 and shot a series of melancholic young women. The New York Times commissioned her to do "Tokyo Girls" in spring 2005. A selection of Van Meene's work is on show at two galleries in Tokyo.
"Van Meene's portraits of vulnerable, 'lost' adolescent females seem to have struck a chord here in Japan," writes Webb. "Perhaps the principal attraction of her work for Tokyoites is the shock value of the fact that her subjects are so atypical of the looks that residents of the city associate with teenage girls. Van Meene clearly has an eye for outsiders."
"In Japan," he continues, "the portraits of po-faced girls who make up the vast majority of the artist's work perhaps appeal to an intellectual preoccupation with the ennui of today's youth, a romanticized view of their melancholy or even a sense of schadenfreude at the seemingly lonely plight of these quirky misfits."
But Van Meene doesn't feel her work is gloomy. "Sadness is so close to feeling happy," she tells Webb, "I think sadness has so many levels of atmosphere it doesn't have to be depressing."
"But perhaps the most intriguing issue raised by her images," says Webb, "is the extent to which they are the contrived, faked constructions of an artist with an agenda, or natural, spontaneous moments in the life of the subject that are captured on celluloid by an artist who was lucky to be there to document them."
Highly recommended article and excellent shows to visit.
"A Sense of You, Created by Me" is at Ginza's Koyanagi Gallery till April 20; tel: (03) 3561-1896; 11 a.m.-7 p.m., closed Mon. "Tokyo Girls -- A Sense of You, Created by Me" is at Tokyo Wonder Site Shibuya till April 12; tel: (03) 3463-0603; 11 a.m.-7 p.m., closed Sat.
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