My name is Toru Ukai (鵜養 透). I’m a Tokyo-based photographer and take pictures in Japan and occasionally somewhere in China or Europe.
What interests me the most is the hidden and invisible structure in our modern society. The structure is working everywhere we live. It’s born out of our own desires, though it can often suppress and depress ourselves. I call the structure “Invisible Machinery”. Sometimes it’s embodied in the customs, the law, the social systems, or even the architecture. Sometimes it appears in our own behavior, gestures, positions and figures. “Invisible Machinery” lies on the outside and even on the inside of us. It’s invisible but the signs are everywhere around/among us. And I think a photo could capture it so well.
A photo is totally different from our pure eyesight which is dynamic and based on the duration of time, that is, our life itself. A photo is static and excludes time and life from the whole reality in front of us. In that sense, photography is the art of death. To photograph is nothing other than to “stop”. Therefore, photography can perceive things that are hidden in our continuously flowing lives ; it is a secret ceremony going back and forth between “visible” and “invisible.”
No matter what I photograph, every one of my pictures is inevitably based on the concept of “Invisible Machinery”. It’s the destiny of my eyes and I can’t escape it.
I’m always ready to join some photographic project all over the world and open to your suggestions.
Thank you for visiting.
Projects in JAPAN
Whispering in the Suburbs – Ongoing Project –
They’re armed with their status, prudence and dress in the center of the city. They play even a leading role of some drama or other there, whether it’s great or not.
They’re disarmed and get back to their ordinary life in the suburbs. They play just a small part of a melodrama without a leading role there.
All they do in the suburbs aren’t worth appreciating, but in fact it’s germinating the intangible future.
The suburbs are kind of like wombs of our society.
The hidden and invisible structure in our society.
It’s working everywhere we live.
It’s born out of our own desires, though it can often suppress and depress ourselves.
I call the structure “Invisible Machinery”, which lies on the outside and even on the inside of us.
It’s invisible but the signs are everywhere around/among us.
Interface / Interference
When I point my camera at the world, I become aware that the world is full of interfaces.
An interface divides the world and it seems the very opening sentence of a story.
Sometimes it can be the takeoff for communication, harmony or fusion,
and sometimes the ignition point of rejection, separation, alienation or conflict.
Baroque for Life
Modern life and the capital logic prefer excess rather than moderation.
Probably they have some affinity with “Baroque”.
Theater Degree Zero
The city of zero degrees. Isolation, fatigue, corrosion and some kind of totalitarianism…
It looks freezing even in the heat of midsummer.
“Degree Zero” also connotes some invisible boundary line or critical point.
Nothing good or bad happens at the moment but the theater is full of potential for changing.
It’s a companion project of “Invisible Machinery”.
Projects in CHINA
Shanghai looks totally photogenic because of its diversity and chaos.
I tend to take a picture almost impulsively there. No thinking, just gazing.
When I want to regain my “wild nature” that I lose in well-ordered Tokyo, I go to Shanghai for emptying my mind.
So every picture taken there is essentially “untitled”.
From the Terminal Station, Guangzhou 1997
During the 1990’s Chinese migrants poured into big cities like an avalanche in pursuit of better life.
The area in and around the terminal station was always incredibly crowded with tens of thousands of people.
Besides, a huge number of people stayed in the station square until they would get jobs in the city.
Although it looked chaotic, I was often overwhelmed by their life force and some kind of dignity in spite of their poverty.
It was a journey to discovering the diversity of people and the starting point of my photography.
Projects in EUROPE
I’ve participated in some exhibitions in Europe since 2013.
Europe gives me good opportunities to photograph something unknown.
It’s still a new world at least for me, a man from the Far East.
All images © Toru Ukai, 2020