A Portrait for Myself

A Portrait for Myself


Publisher: Seigensha

The concluding volume to the author’s twenty-year-long series of portraits of high school students from throughout Japan.

Photographer Kei Ono began shooting portraits of high school students from around Japan in 2002. This collection — the third in the series after “The Glare of Youth” (2006) and “New Text” (2013) — represents the culmination of that decades-long endeavor.

As Ono sees it, the few years of high school offer teens a precious opportunity when teens are able to seriously brood and reflect on themselves, and in that sense their figures strike at the heart of the human condition. He began the series out of the anticipation that photographing these youths would bring him just a little closer to answering the great question of what it means to be human.

Ono recruited his subjects via the Internet and social media. Once a student contacted him to say they wanted to leave something of themselves in a photo, he went to them, wherever they were in Japan, and—based on pre-session email interviews about why and where they wanted to be photographed—let their feelings and wishes guide him in the shaping of a single portrait. And so the cycle, and the series, went on.

This work continued without a break for some two decades, until 2020 and the onset of the global Covid-19 pandemic forced Ono to come to a stop. All of a sudden there he was, a portrait photographer who was not free to meet people; the situation drove him to question his entire purpose as a photographer and even made him think of quitting at one point. But he was brought out of his crisis and moved to return to photography thanks, once again, to the young students who were his subjects.

Covid had robbed these teens not only of their time in school, but also of countless other opportunities in life. No other group in Japanese society, it might safely be said, had been so profoundly affected by the pandemic. Seeing them, Ono began thinking that by capturing them at this moment in time he could, perhaps, be of service to someone out there somewhere. And so over a concentrated period of roughly five months in 2022 once movement restrictions had been lifted, he shot portraits of students as they were after their experience with the pandemic, and with those brought his series to an end.

Ono’s hope while working on the series was that by capturing every student, each irreplaceable in their own way, in a portrait together with the surroundings in which they were grounded, he would ultimately also be able to document the changes in the very landscape of Japan itself. The accumulated results are portraits for his young subjects that also serve as portraits of the times.

― description from the publisher

Keywords: Portraiture


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Book Size
193 × 252 mm
128 pages
Publication Year
English, Japanese

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