A photographic study about the fragility of artistic expression and the long shadow of the past
Kentaro Takahashi’s photobook “A Red Hat” follows the current lives of Ryoichi Hishiya and Goro Matsumoto. 98 and 99 years old respectively, we are allowed intimate glimpses into their habits, interests, ailments, the paintings they draw, books they read, and the past that unites them.
On September 20, 1941, Hishiya, Matsumoto and other students of the Asahikawa Teachers’ School were arrested by the Special Higher Police. Under the guidance of Masago Kumada, the art students learned not to draw pictures following textbook orders but to observe reality and society and draw based on their own conclusions and observations. They were arrested on suspicion of violating the Peace Preservation Law, accused of criticizing the state and spreading anti-Japanese ideology, and held in prison for years.
None of the paintings they created were seen again; all that remained were black-and-white photographs of the works.
Takahashi’s quiet, questioning photographic series is supplemented in the book by long, detailed historical essays into the case and its background by Ai Ota, Hiroshi Miyata, Kentaro Takahashi and others (all texts included in Japanese and English translation).