The history of Japanese photography, long dominated by men, experienced a dramatic change at the turn of the 21st century. Challenging the tradition that relegated women to the role of photographic subject, a number of young women photographers rose to prominence during this period by turning their cameras on themselves.
The resulting domestic, private scenes and provocative self-portraits changed the landscape of the Japanese art world.
“The Younger Generation: Contemporary Japanese Photography,” on view at the Getty Center from Oct. 6 through Feb. 21, 2016, features works by five contemporary photographers born in Japan who emerged in the 1990s and 2000s: Rinko Kawauchi,Yuki Onodera, Chino Otsuka, Tomoko Sawada, and Lieko Shiga.
“These photographers bring a variety of approaches to their explorations of living in contemporary Japan and how they observe and respond to their country’s deep cultural traditions,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “From quiet morning rituals to scenes of matchmaking and marriage, this body of work provides a rich perspective on Japan’s ongoing examination of its cultural uniqueness and place in the wider world.”
As these younger photographers began to emerge at the end of the 20th century, they were often viewed collectively and their work labeled onnanoko shashin, or “girl photographs,” despite their wide-ranging aesthetics and interests. This term, coined by critic Iizawa Kōtarō, was largely perceived as derisive, though some considered it a celebration of these women’s achievements.
Countering the idea that “girl photography” could define a generation of practitioners, “The Younger Generation” showcases the breadth of work made by five mid-career photographers during the past 20 years. Selected images from one series by each of the five photographers will be featured in the exhibition, including recent acquisitions of photographs by Sawada and Shiga made possible by the support of the Getty Museum Photographs Council.
“The Younger Generation” is curated by Amanda Maddox, assistant curator in the museum’s Department of Photographs. On view concurrently in the Getty’s Center for Photographs is the exhibition “Ishiuchi Miyako: Postwar Shadows.”
Related events include an in-gallery Point of View talk with Sawada and Shiga on Thursday, Oct. 8, at 1:30 p.m. and a panel discussion titled Contemporary Japanese
Photography: A Reaction Against “Girl Photography” with Sawada and Shiga, moderated by Michiko Kasahara, chief curator at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, on Thursday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m. at the Getty Center.
For more information, visit www.getty.edu.