Masashi Asada’s “Asada Studio Sennen” is a series of portraits he took of his aging father.
In Japan, it is customary to display a portrait of the deceased during the funeral process. The portrait continues to be displayed during the long mourning period at home, and then joins portraits of other deceased family members in the household shrine. The portrait lives on for a long time after a person’s death as a representation of their character, and perhaps as a crystallisation of the urgent but futile desire to “live a thousand and ten thousand years” (“Sennen” is Japanese for “one thousand years”).
Whether or not there was an urgent need, Masashi Asada began taking portraits of his father in his parents’ living room, to be used as his posthumous portrait. The book contains 120 photographs in chronological order and arranged almost like a flipbook. The photographs start out as normal portraits used for such occasions, but over time Asada tries out different patterns – different facial expressions, angles and lights, then almost farcically dark or hopelessly dramatic portraits, sunglasses, hats with emoticons, and other props also make an appearance.
“Asada Studio Sennen” manages to explore attitudes towards life and death and the relationship between father and son with humour and earnestness. A beautiful record of two men staring death in the face.