Running up until November 25th, The Tokyo Photographic Art Museum (TOP for short) in Ebisu is hosting I know something about love, asian contemporary photography, a powerful exhibition showcasing six of Asia’s most groundbreaking contemporary female photographers.
Representing Japan, China, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, and ethnic Koreans raised in Japan, the roster and background of artists are eclectic, but their themes are universal.
“Visually it may seem there is no uniformity, but in my mind love is a keyword that uniforms these works,” explains Michiko Kasahara, the event organizer.
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Self-love and invisible family unions
Thematically, the most immediately impactful photos come from Zhe Chen, a photographer who first snatched the limelight in around 2010 when at just 21 she released a photo series exploring self-harm. A selection of Chen’s most famous works which were later published as a photo book titled Bees & The Bearable (Jiazhazhi Press, 2016) are on display. The exhibit of Chen’s work runs like a concise anthology of her short but potent career.
This is arguably one of the most exciting contemporary photo exhibits on display for this half of 2018.
From almost accidental beginnings, Chen’s most discussed photos began as a personal collection of self-portraits taken after episodes of self-harm, which Chen would file in a junk folder on her computer. As she told GUP Magazine in an interview in 2017, “I never thought anybody would ever want to look at them. I only kept them because they looked beautiful to me.”
© Photo by Chen Zhe, Bees #065-01, from the series “Bees”, 2010 ©Chen Zhe
While studying at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, she shared the works as part of a class assignment. The response to the images was a catalyst for Chen who in 2010 went back to China to work on a project documenting individuals who shared similar experiences. It’s a compelling exploration of how people find unity within the realms of personal darkness.
Another artist who uses photography to explore the unconventionality of human connection is Oksun Kim. Born in Korea in the late 1960s, her photo series Happy Together (2000–2004) positioned her as one of the country’s most fascinating photographers. Many of Kim’s photos in the exhibit are taken from this long-running series which explores the dynamics of interracial relationships. Taken in the