Higashikawa, known as the “town of photography”, announces the winners of the 31st edition of its awards.

The Higashikawa International Photo Festival in Hokkaido is the longest running photography festival in Japan, which annually awards 5 photographers with a prestigious prize. Along with four local artists, New Zealand’s Anne Noble is one of this year’s winners.

Asahi-dake and Sugatami Pond in Higashikawa, Hokkaido, Japan, 2014. © 663highland/Wikimedia Commons

Asahi-dake and Sugatami Pond in Higashikawa, Hokkaido, Japan, 2014. © 663highland/Wikimedia Commons

The 31st Higashikawa International Photo Festival (PDF download) announced its winners on 1 May 2015, chosen from a total of 106 nominated photographers, including:

  • 30 for the Domestic Photographer Award
  • 34 for the New Photographer Award
  • 11 for the Special Photographer Award
  • 18 for the Hidano Kazuuemon Award, and
  • 13 for the Overseas Photographer Award.

The ceremony will be held on 8 August 2015, with the exhibition running from 8 August to 22 September at Higashikawa Bunka Gallery.

Higashikawa: Town of Photography

First cultivated by a group of settlers in 1895, Higashikawa, in central Hokkaido on the northernmost tip of Japan, is part of Japan’s largest national park – Daisetsuzan National Park – whose eastern portion forms a large-scale forest. With its beautiful natural surroundings and many species of animals and plants, the town has been the subject of many photographs. In 1985, the town was declared “Town of Photography”.

Since holding this title, Higashikawa has been a platform for the meeting of people, photography culture and nature over the last thirty years. Celebrating 120 years of resource development of the land, Higashikawa was declared the Culture Capital of Photography in May 2014, with the determination to link photography and people across the world.

Anne Noble, 'Eidolon # 2', 2015, pigment print on Hahnemühle paper, 1200 x 800 mm. Image courtesy the artist and Bartley + Company Art.

Anne Noble, ‘Eidolon # 2’, 2015, pigment print on Hahnemühle paper, 1200 x 800 mm. Image courtesy the artist and Bartley + Company Art.

Higashikawa International Photo Festival

The Festival was established in 1985 and is organised annually to re-vitalise Higashikawa. The one month event transforms the town into a “photo town” according to concepts outlined in the “Photography Town Manifesto”, which states that the purpose of the festival is to

encounter the photography of the world in this small town, make contact with people from all over the world, and produce happy smiles around the world.

The summer festival of photography follows the idea of contributing to and fostering photographic culture as well as raising the cultural consciousness of Higashikawa residents. With a history of more than a quarter of a century, it hosts the nation’s prestigious photography awards and is the longest-running photography festival.

The Festival is based on three main relationships: between photography and nature, photography and people, and photography and culture. The field of photography is considered in its broadest sense, from art photography to popular culture and recreational photography. The event emphasises the expansion of possibilities in the world of photography and aims at contributing to international communication and culture through photography.

Among the notable photographers who won past awards are Nobuyoshi Araki (1991), Olivo Barbieri (1992), William Yang (1993), Hiroshi Sugimoto (1995), Yasumasa Morimura (2002) and Manit Sriwanichpoom (2007).

Anne Noble, 'Aurina # 1', 2009, Piezo pigment on archival paper, 775 x 990 mm. Image courtesy the artist and Bartley + Company Art.

Anne Noble, ‘Aurina # 1’, 2009, Piezo pigment on archival paper, 775 x 990 mm. Image courtesy the artist and Bartley + Company Art.

The 2015 winners

The winner of the Overseas Photographer Award (amounting to JPY 1 million) went to New Zealand’s Anne Noble, one of the country’s most respected contemporary photographers. Noble is widely renowned for images of her daughter’s mouth, as well as those of Antarctica. The latter has been a major focus of her work over the last decade, resulting in a series of photographic books, including her award-winning The Last Road (Clouds, 2014), and national and international exhibition projects. Recently, Noble has also turned to exploring the decline of the honeybee and global threats to complex natural systems.

Tokihiro Sato (b. 1957, Yamagata Prefecture) won the Domestic Photographer Award (JPY 1 million) for the exhibition “Sato Tokihiro: Presence or Absence” (2014) at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography and his accomplishments as a photographer. In one of his major works, the “Photo-Respiration” series, he produces traces of light with a penlight and sunlight reflected from a hand mirror. His experimental projects have included the use of multiple pinhole cameras he made himself, as in Gleaning Lights, and the use of a camera obscura that could be moved from place to place in Wandering Camera.

The New Photographer Award (JPY500,000) went to Maiko Haruki (b. 1974, Ibaraki Prefecture) for her achievements and the exhibition “A certain composition of eyes” (2014) at Taro Nasu. Her work encourages viewers to ponder the two basic elements of time and space by contemplating the act of seeing and stripping extraneous elements away from photographic expression. Her photographs are characterised, through extreme underexposure, by large areas of darkness juxtaposed to small areas of light.

Kazutoshi Yoshimura (b. 1967, Nagano Prefecture) won the Special Photographer Award (JPY500,000) for his photobook CEMENT (Nostro Bosco, 2010). Beginning with a book of photos of Prince Edward Island on the northeastern coast of Canada, he has published more than thirty photobooks. CEMENT is a collection of images of a cement plant in Hokuto in Hokkaido, highlighting the reality of the big industry and revealing the beauty of its details.

The Hidano Kazuuemon Award (JPY500,000), reserved for photographers who contributed to society through photography, was given to Kikujiro Fukushima (b. 1921, Yamaguchi Prefecture) 
for long-term achievement in photographing problematic aspects of postwar Japan, including images of his hometown in the Seto Inland Sea, and survivors of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia


Related Topic: Japanese artists, New Zealand artists, photography, award ceremonies, prizes, events in Japan

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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