Ken Kitano (1968, Tokyo)has a highly philosophical approach and has been working on his conceptual ‘Our Face’ project since 1999. Beginning in his native Japan, he portrays members of social groups, associations, clubs or professions – for instance lawyers, athletes or ricksha pullers. Later on Kitano also created portraits outside of Japan, in fact all over the world.
Each composite photograph in Our Faces sees a huge volume of overlapping portraits – depicting people belonging to various different social groups – printed on the same sheet of photographic paper. The groups are varied, ranging from schoolgirls in Harajuku to the fishermen of the Boso Peninsula. The more faces printed on top of one another, the more the contours of the individual become blurred. Most of these people come from different cultural backgrounds and are regarded as some sort of ‘other’ by society. In a globalising world, the structure of our society seems to exclude and ignore those that do not represent the ‘norm’. In making the work, I discovered that there are many kinds of ‘others’ on this earth, and that this should be celebrated.
His most recent project ‘Gathering Light’ commenced after the Fukushima disaster in 2011. Kitano started to think about the earth, the sun and the universe in relation to one another. For ‘Gathering Light', he installed a film camera on a rooftop from the winter solstice to the summer solstice to create a long exposure. After six months, he carefully removed the camera and recovered the film. Once the images were developed, they were scanned and adjusted with Photoshop. Here, the unseen traces of light jumped out and floated to the surface. Having remained unchanged for 4.6 billion years, the revolution of the Earth and the rotation of the cosmos are etched into the photographs through a myriad of lines. The image appears and finally shows what the human eye was unable to perceive. For Kitano this is the quintessence of photography.