Thursday, March 29, 2012

Hiroshi Watanabe: Kabuki Series

Hiroshi Watanabe, Natsuki Tukamoto, Matsuo Kabuki, 2003

Hiroshi Watanabe, Jun Masuda as Oyanagi, Matsuo Kabuki, 2004

Hiroshi Watanabe, Rikuto Tada, Matsuo Kabuki, 2003

Hiroshi Watanabe, Jun Masuda as Oyanagi, Matsuo Kabuki, 2004

Hiroshi Watanabe, Ryota Nakajima as Mannojo, Matsuo Kabuki, 2004

Hiroshi Watanabe, Mari Ito, Tono Kabuki, 2003

Hiroshi Watanabe, Yuka Onozawa and Ikki Tada, Matsuo Kabuki, 2004

Hiroshi Watanabe, Yuki Nonaka, Matsuo Kabuki, 2003

Hiroshi Watanabe, Maiko Takaku, Matsuo Kabuki, 2003

Hiroshi Watanabe, Sachiyo Oyama as Osome, Nakatsugawa Kabuki, 2004

Hiroshi Watanabe, Marina Ema and Kazusa Ito, Matsuo Kabuki, 2003

Those Kabuki players you see in my photographs are not with the mainstream Kabuki companies in Tokyo. They are with localized small groups located in various parts of Japan. They are not professional actors in a sense, as they don’t get paid for their plays. They actually spend quite a lot of their own money to be in the plays. Kabuki is known for lavish make-up, costumes, and stage set-ups. As such, those who want to be in the plays must be committed and prepared. They spend their time and money because of their love for being in the theater—attention they get, pride, prestige, and joy of being part of their tradition.

One such company is based in a town called Nakatsugawa. The town is cozily nested at the foot of Japan Alps Mountains. It was situated at the halfway point between Tokyo and Kyoto of the old main road called Nakasendo in Edo era, and because of this strategic location, it flourished as a trading post about three hundred years ago. The town became rich, but had no cultures as they are away from big cities. They had to wait for Kabuki Company to arrive, which comes only once a year. Being tired of waiting, they finally decided to do Kabuki by themselves. They built a theater and hired make-up artists, costumers, and stage craftsmen from Kyoto just for themselves, and they started to play their favorite stories. Thus it became their tradition.

I believe good portraits are the ones that show the characters and personality of the subjects--their human beings. I find it a difficult task, as people are so well educated about photographs nowadays. People know how to pose, how to make impressions, and how to look good, and hardly reveal what they really are.

Those Kabuki players are also hidden in heavy make-up and wardrobes in a made-up world. But when they sit in front of my camera between plays, they are so much saturated (and worried) in their roles, that they pay very little attention to my existence. They are struck with stage fright and they repeat their lines over and over as I photograph. Remember this is not what they do everyday. On the other hand, they are not afraid of me, or of anyone else, as their faces are shielded by the heavy make-ups. They can be themselves without worrying about other people, as if they were in the masquerade. They feel that no one knows who he or she really is, or at least people know that they were in a fictional world. At those moments, they are much closer to me.

-Hiroshi Watanabe

images and text found here



sporkgasm said...

Beautiful! I LOVE the last paragraph of his description. The measure of any truly beautiful photograph as art, to me, is a sort of realness and the feeling that someone captured an authentic moment.

Heidi Post said...

Gorgeous photos.

Aline said...

creepy and amazingly beautiful

Trissta said...

Wow. Those makeup deets are crazy amazing. I can't imagine being in so much stage makeup. Super cool.

Much Love,

Annabelle said...

Love. So so love.

Kim said...

These are so beautiful, yet they also make my spine tingle a little bit. That's art!

Caroline said...

OMG...these photos... And so interesting about these kids and how nervous they are that they pay no attention to the photographer!

NellieVaughn said...

These are absolutely gorgeous photos. There is something eerie about them. I always found haunting things beautiful.

fabulousjunk said...

wow, amazing yet kind of creepy photos, very cool, I love the bunny ears one. Just because it reminds me of the movie "Gummo" :)


ajg-jane said...

Amazing images...the rabbit ears are my favorite. I just can't resit a good pair of rabbit ears!

krista said...

i just stared at these for a solid five minutes. love love love.

Karena said...

So fascinating it is hard to take my eyes off the images, the makeup is so precise.

I hope you will Come and enter my amazing Cross Bottle Guy Giveaway!

Art by Karena

Kitty Stampede said...

Beautiful! and i love the silly ones. :D

Down and Out Chic said...

it's such an interesting idea, finding the the "real" person behind the makeup and the costumes. gotta love a photographer that strives for sincerity. these are slightly eery and really beautiful!

itsCatherine said...

Extra thank you for this post : )