Naoki Honjyo: “Small Planet” Photography Exhibition

I attended Naoki Honjyo’s “Small Planet” exhibition in Daikanyama’s Good Design Gallery with a friend, after giving up on a planned field trip to Yokohama that day (he overslept big time, and we figured it wasn’t worth going all the way up there so late in the afternoon).

poster for Naoki Honjyo

Naoki Honjyo "Small Planet"

at (g) Good Design Company
in the Ebisu, Daikanyama area
This event has ended - (2006-04-12 - 2006-05-12)

In Reviews by Lena Oishi 2006-04-20

I had no clue where he was taking me as it was a last-minute decision on his part, but I am glad to say that I was pleasantly surprised as soon as I saw the first photograph.

Honjyo specializes in taking photographs of real people, real events, real cities, and magically portraying them as if they are dioramas. Most photographs seem to be taken from high above, looking down on the tiny cars and people (hence the title “Small Planet”). From the stillness of the picture, the vibrant colours and the composition, I immediately assumed that I was looking at photographs of some immaculate model village that somebody had created. Even after my friend informed me that they were indeed ‘real’, I couldn’t help but push my face right up to the frame and scrutinize the tiny details … maybe as an attempt to find some sort of evidence that will prove its sincerity, or else to pick out elements that are too ‘real’ to be fake – swaying trees, shadows, hints of movement.

In his newly released photograph book, also titled “Small Planet” (this exhibition is being held in conjunction with its release), Honjyo states that his photographs ‘trick’ the eye by showing the world in ways that we are not accustomed to. In other words, the pictures are tweaked in such a way that our mind automatically assumes the ‘fakeness’ of the landscapes. Apparently, there are other photographers overseas who adopt this technique, but presently, Honjo is the pioneer in its field in Japan. Asked whether he takes ‘normal’ photographs as well (for work, perhaps), he replied that, so far, he has been lucky enough to be able to sustain work focusing on this particular style.

After spending far more time than necessary in the small gallery, and flipping through the “Small Planet” book that my friend purchased there, we decided that the photographs work better as small pieces, rather than blown up (as some were in the gallery). When too big, the illusion is lost. However, if kept compact, the uncanny simplicity of the pictures entices the viewer to peer inside the frame into its seemingly artificial other-world, only to realize that the magical ‘small planet’ they are staring at is none other than our own mortal world.

Lena Oishi

Lena Oishi. Born in Japan in 1982, grew up in England and Australia. With a BA in Media and Communications and MA in Cinema Studies, she now lives in Tokyo as a freelance translator and occasional editor. Works include VICE Magazine, Japanese editorial supervision of "Metronome No. 11 - What Is To Be Done? Tokyo " (Seikosha, 2007), and translation for film and art festival catalogs. She can also interpret simultaneously if you give her enough candy. Lena likes making her eyeballs bleed after watching way too many films while eating ice cream in the dark. » See other writings


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