TORU UKAI  Photography

I’m glad to announce that my new books were published by iKi Editions in France. Go through the NEWS page.


Projects in JAPAN


Theater Degree Zero – Ongoing Project –
Tokyo, 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 to “Prewar Days”.


Prewar Days – Ongoing Project –
Japan has been in the long “postwar days” for more than 70 years as a defeated nation.
It seemed the postwar situation would be almost eternal.
But now I feel it’s on the way out though Japan still looks peaceful at present.
“Postwar” could be another name for “prewar” if we lost our modesty, discretion and tolerance.
The project shows the signs in a metaphorical way.


Urban Shan-shui/山水  – Ongoing Project –
Shan shui (Chinese: 山水) means the traditional Chinese paintings depicting the natural landscape. But most of the landscape was originated from the painters’ imagination. In other words, “shan shui” is the amalgam of nature and humanity, or existence and imagery.
This project mainly deals with the interface between civilization/culture and nature, or their interference with each other. Sometimes a picture shows a harmonious balance of them, and sometimes the opposite. Half of these pictures were taken in Kyoto because the ancient capital of Japan is surrounded mountains and is literally located on the various interfaces, that is, between culture and nature, between the present and the past, etc.
The project is composed of the five parts: “Deconstruction of the Cityscape”, “Imitation of the Universe”, “Ambiguity of Haiku Poetry”, “Pilgrimage to the Unknown” and “The Interface”. It’s an ongoing project and even now I don’t know where it goes. But anyway, I regard it as a turning point in my photography, which has treated of street scenes in big cities since the beginning. In the sense, I’m in the very interface between my past and my future, too.
I’m looking for different resources of energy in the project.


Invisible Machinery
The hidden and invisible structure in our society.
It’s born out of the whole desire of us, though it could suppress and depress ourselves.
I call the structure “Invisible Machinery”, which is in the outside and even in the inside of us.
It’s invisible but the signs are everywhere among us.
Capturing “Invisible Machinery” is my main theme of photography.



Baroque for Life
Modern life or the capital logic prefers excess rather than moderation.
Probably it has some affinity with “Baroque”.


Projects in CHINA

Shanghai looks totally photogenic because of its diversity and chaos.
I tend to take pictures almost impulsively there. No thinking, just gazing.
When I want to regain my “wild nature” which 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 peasants were pouring into big cities like an avalanche in pursuit of better life.
Guangzhou, where I was living then on business, was the most typical city about the phenomenon in China.
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.
We could see everything about life, that is, cooking, washing, sleeping, selling, buying , gambling, quarreling, fighting and just living there on the street.
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 trip for discovering the diversity of people and the starting point of my photography.
After returning to Japan, the project was awarded a prize in the 7th “New Cosmos of 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, 2017


© 2018 TORU UKAI Photography . All Rights Reserved.