In his series of “fishgraphs”, Japanese photographer Naohiro Harada playfully channels traditional conventions in Japanese visual culture and enters into a dialogue with ukiyo-e master Utagawa Hiroshige about the uncomfortable emptiness of Tokyo’s streets during the pandemic-stricken Olympic Games in 2021.
Harada bought fish at local fish markets in the morning, then visited places around Tokyo depicted by Hiroshige in his famous “One Hundred Famous Views of Edo”. There, he combined the fish with the surrounding scenery (and sometimes props) to create allusive, wistful motifs to photograph with his large-format camera. In the book, Harada juxtaposes his strange, humorous, sometimes grotesque images with black-and-white prints of Hiroshige’s series. During a time when the entire world was supposed to be in Tokyo, in reality the streets were emptier than ever, and meeting friends or strangers was to be avoided. Perhaps without the pandemic, the fish in Harada’s photographs might have ended up as sushi in the mouths of international tourists.
“Looking back, the process was like performing a ritual in a strange dream that allowed me to immerse myself in creating during the pandemic. Sometimes a specific place and time in history create a strange puzzle. Perhaps this work is such a puzzle, born out of Tokyo.”
— from Naohiro Harada’s foreword
Harada’s multi-layered series on traditions, conventions, historical and contemporary events and their strangeness was the winner of the 2022 Libraryman Award.