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In the form of an illustrated Japanese professional agenda, the ongoing Salaryman Project depicts the world of Tokyo’s male office workers (aka salarymen) and the Japanese sense of the season through a mix of street photography and conceptual documentary.
The Kawaguchiko Incident
In October 2006, I went on a day trip to Kawaguchiko near Mount Fuji, Japan. I was a 42 year-old free-lance recording engineer on a sabbatical in Tokyo. Walking in the forest, I was taking pictures when suddenly, a fast-paced salaryman with briefcase appeared on the trail. I took a photo. He was gone. This vision wouldn’t leave me: Mount Fuji, the Forest and the Salaryman. Because I had never worked in an office and I was new to Japan, the suited man represented a double exotic figure. Soon enough, I was roaming the streets of the metropolis camera in hand, exploring my new photography playground. I had to reenact this initial vision.
A sympathetic spy
Camera-shy myself and aware of the increasing constraints of portrait rights on candid photography, I decided to obscure the faces of my “models” to respect their privacy. What started as a limitation turned into an exciting challenge. To my delight, revisiting and perverting the old decisive moment seemed to let mystery and poetry blossom around the corporate world. Anonymity and solitude is not a social comment on these men, but an invitation to self-identification and imagination. Photographically, the point is to explore the blurry area between public and private, a sensitive zone in the age of silent compact cameras and instant image sharing.
A photographer with an agenda
The published book is inspired by business agendas that I have seen in Japan. With this format, I can reference office work and how it relates to the cycle of the seasons. This ongoing publication forces me to work on deadlines but at the same time, to quietly enjoy the subtle changes in the season all year long. Finally, producing an agenda is a way to happily accept obsolescence as the fate of publication and photography.