Reviewer Feedback Shigeru Yoshida 吉田 繁

valley of memories ‒ Series Category by Shigeru Yoshida

Artist Statement

The fire is shinning brightly in the dark.
Fire prayers have been used in Japanese festivals since ancient times.
In March 2011, the Touhoku earthquake and tsunami struck Japan and resulted in over 20,000 fatalities.
The veneration of our ancestors puts our minds at ease with the knowledge that they are watching over us and guiding us.
The victims lost all their worldly belongings and had to return to a more basic way of living.
However they remained aware of the value of their lives and the importance of rebuilding that which was destroyed.
Japan is a large consumer society but people question whether or not this society brings the peace and prosperity.
The victims became more appreciative of the fundamentals of life. In their prayers they wished to rebuild a society based on community, love, culture, knowledge, and the willpower to live.
When the victims make their prayers they remember the importance of what it means to be alive, and akin to turning the page of a picturebook.
They live their daily life in tune with nature,using fire in their rituals as a means of introspection
They respect the force of nature ,knowing that the spirits of their forefathers are protecting their way of life.
No human force can prevail over the power of nature.
Fire is the beginning and the end of all natural scenery.
People will find peace within themselves through prayer by reliving the memories of the past.

Reviewer Feedback

Shigeru, how significant and impactful is your series! These people's communion with nature after a dreadful event, mostly caused by the human abuses towards nature itself, works as a metaphor of the main contemporary issues. So the Japanese festivals provide a good occasion for you as a photographer to tell about the relationship between human and environment, and this is a universal and topical theme.
Your style is original and I congratulate you on how you have used the black and white, which is marked by a full range of tones and makes the series cohesive. Moreover, I think you've been able to go far beyond the photo reportage, since most of your picture are powerfully symbolic.
I've rearranged the sequence in order to make your work gaining narrative strength. Please refer to the new order above.
In the new sequence, pictures from #1 to #7 are absolutely effective since they convey the pathos of these ancestral rites; I especially appreciate the beautiful composition and framing in #1 #2, #3, #4, #5 where people are showed as tiny figures if compared with the overwhelming strength of fire and environment in general; this attitude reminds me the art of Romanticism, in particular Caspar David Friedrich's paintings.
My sequence ends with picture #7, where human subjects are missing and the natural element of fire gains the spotlight, burning among fascinating pyramids.
To me the last three pictures are not as strong as the others, since they look as good documentary pictures, but without the same pathos of the rest of your series. So I would put them aside. Since the relationship between human and environment will be more and more a topical theme in the future, I would recommend you to continue this promising project, by including more pictures about rites, ceremonies and festival concerning this theme. I'm sure you can make a beautiful photo-book.
I wish you good luck with your work!

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Relevant Quotes from Past Jurors

  • "If you've created a series of images, think of them as a story. Choose a very strong image to start off the series to make a powerful first impression." ̶ Jim Casper, Editor & Publisher of LensCulture
  • "Every great picture tells a story and should be able to stand on its own, but viewers are often eager to know a little bit more about what the photo is about. So a simple title or caption, or a few words, can make a great photo really come to life in someone's imagination." ̶ Jim Casper, Editor & Publisher of LensCulture
  • "When looking at photographs I listen foremost to my intuition, but this is subjective, of course. I find that I am drawn to work that is layered̶visually or conceptually̶and capable of communicating multiple stories depending on the life experience of the viewer. A series of pictures needs to convey a multifaceted story, with irony, humor, or formal complexity." ̶ Natasha Egan, Executive Director, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College, Chicago, IL, USA


Valley of memories(記憶の谷)







  • もし何かのイメージを作品集として撮りたいなら、一つのストーリーを持たせてつくるといい。まず非常に強い印象をもったイメージの写真を一番初めにもってきて、力強い第一印象を与えよう。(ジム・キャスパー、レンズカルチャー編集者・出版者)
  • どの素晴らしい写真もストーリーがある。たった一枚であっても成り立たないといけない。しかし写真を見る者は、一枚の写真が伝えようとしていることをもっと詳しく知りたいと思っている。そのためシンプルなタイトルやキャプション、言葉を添えることは人々のイマジネーションを深めるのに大いに役立つ。(ジム・キャスパー、レンズカルチャー編集者・出版者)
  • 写真を見るとき自分の直感に素直に従うことにしている。しかしそれはもちろん、主観的なものである。そしていつの間にか、視覚的にも概念的にもそこにある何枚もの作品たちに引き込まれている。写真は見る者が生きてきた道によって様々な見方ができる。作品集をつくるという事は、それらの写真に様々なストーリー性を持たせなければならない。皮肉やユーモアを交えたり、幾何学的に複雑なものにしたりという工夫である。(ナターシャ・イーガン、現代写真美術館常任理事、コロンビア大学、シカゴ、イリノイ州、アメリカ)