原田 裕規 Yuki Harada

A Mountain of Images
photographs, albums and others

Most of the photographs collected here are “photos that should have been thrown away.” The initial reason I started collecting photos was that I heard that a large number of photos were among the garbage collected daily by industrial waste disposal companies, and that there was no one to pick them up and throw them away.
Through interviewing the disposal companies, I found out that the garbage was sorted into “sellable” and “unsellable” piles, with the former being put on the market and the latter being thrown away. I was given permission to keep the photos that were to be discarded. In the beginning, each photograph was neatly divided into sachets, sorted, numbered, and stored. However as the number of cooperating companies increased, so did the numbers of photographs we received, and the task reached its limits.

One of the things that happened as a result was a transformation of my physical being. Because of the history of their retrieval, these photographs are thought to capture many of the deceased. Among them, those born in the 20th century and recently deceased are a rare generation in which physical images have been preserved for almost the entire period between birth and death. As I pondered all of their lives through photography, their existence was burned into my mind, and I have come to dream of these strangers.

Incidentally, in the context of art vernacular, there is a technique known as “found photography.” In this method, a photograph that is originally taken for a “non-artistic” purpose (perhaps documentary or archival purposes), is “re-discovered” by an artist and “reborn” as art. The context of the photograph is rewritten to change the way the photograph is viewed. As a result, the photograph may gain artistic value, but at the cost of losing the intensity of human presence; so intense it may burn itself into the mind of the viewer.

These piles of photographs, then, exist somewhere between art and non-art, telling the stories of people who existed at one point in time in Japanese history.






The Story of How the Photographs Came to be Stacked into a Mountain
Yuki Harada

At some point, I started experiencing muscle pain because of the photographs. I rented a room on the fifth floor of an old building as a storage cum studio, but there was no elevator in the building, so I had to go back and forth between the first floor and the fifth floor many times. I’ve been doing this for the past few years; climbing up and down stairs with boxes full of photos, and every time I do, my muscles ache. I don’t think many people realize, but photographs are actually quite heavy. I started collecting photos after hearing that trash collected daily by garbage collectors and waste disposal companies contained innumerable photographs that were unclaimed and thrown away without a place to go. When I interviewed the garbage collectors to confirm the situation, we found that the photographs were sorted into “sellable photos” and “unsellable photos” on the spot, and that the former was sold at flea markets and on the Internet, while the latter was thrown into the incinerator.

What intrigued me was that many of the workers I met during the interviews were minorities. Mr. E, who is from Cameroon, I became especially close to, and we started to keep in touch on a private basis. The more I learned about his working life, the more I found out that these photos were being accumulated daily in the “periphery” of society. It seemed to overlap with the “peripheral” existence of these men and women who were collecting the photos in Japanese society. Regardless of their being family portraits or photos for sale, what these photographs have in common is that they are definitely “missing” something. In the field of contemporary art, it is not uncommon for artists to manipulate the context of an unclaimed photo to reclaim it as a work of art. Now, looking at these photos, I don’t think there’s anything more audaciously brazen than this act of reclaiming. I came to this conclusion on my first visit to a warehouse of a certain waste collector and witnessed a scene that shocked me.

A worker in a van led me to a warehouse that looked like an ordinary house from the outside. But once inside, I witnessed large piles of junk that had been collected by different vendors filling up every inch of space. Being that we were inside a ‘minka’ (a traditional Japanese house made of wood), it looked like an abandoned hoarder’s garbage mansion. In one corner, there was a pile of photographs stacked high and sitting mound-like. The piles of photographs, void of familial love and banished from capitalist society, looked like a cursed monument embodying the discontents of society.
To reveal the existence of these photographs to the world, I sought to make these images public in the form of an exhibition.
The image below, on the other hand, is an illustration from the March 2020 issue of Kohkoku (Vol. 414) titled One Million Seeings. It is based on the twenty-four-hour video work of the same name. From the video, where unclaimed photos are “just looked at,” fifty-two still images were selected and displayed over 104 pages throughout the magazine, with newly photographed images for the front and back inserts. The new photos depict the piles of photographs I saw at the warehouse; unmanned shots that were taken in the morning and night using a timer.

For me, photography is like a trauma that you can’t forget no matter how hard you try. Earlier, I called the pile of photographs I found at the warehouse “a cursed monument.” Encountering this monument, I instinctively felt its foreboding aura as if it was wrong to touch it and as if its very existence was taboo which made me reconsider reclaiming these condemned photographs and shining a spotlight on it. Even so, I could not ignore my urge to bring these images into the light for some reason. At one point, I started dreaming of the strangers I observed in the photos. I think these photographs (= images) are something that resurrects no matter how many times they are discarded.
Is it possible to form a work, maintaining a precarious position, where a viewer is not compelled to contextualize the images within their own inner world but rather to think about the lives and essence of the individuals in the photographs?
(Translated by Sonia Hasegawa-Bruinooge)




それに対して図5~8は、2020年3月に発売された『広告』Vol.414(特集:著作)に掲載されたアートワークだ。タイトルは《One Million Seeings》。同名の映像作品をベースにしている。24時間かけて引き取り手のない写真を「ただ見る」様子を記録した映像で、そこから52枚の静止画を選び出し、誌面全体に104ページにわたって展開するとともに、前後の見返し用に撮り下ろしの写真[図5-6]を撮影した。この見返しの写真は、業者の倉庫で目撃した光景をイメージして、「誰にも見られていない写真の山」を朝と夜にタイマーで無人撮影したものだ。


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