Art

A Hidden Flaneur Who Records the Minutiae of Street Life

Mikiko Hara made a conscious decision to discard reliance on the viewfinder, which led to a body of work that is true to her intention to capture street life as a continuous process.

Akiko Hara, “Untitled #108” (2009) from the series “Still” (all photos © Mikiko Hara, courtesy Miyako Yoshinaga, New York)

If acclaimed street photography is defined by the decisive moment when form and content converge with the artist’s vision, then Mikiko Hara’s images of the streets of Tokyo are quite the opposite. Hara made a conscious decision to discard reliance on the viewfinder, which led to a body of work that is true to her intention to capture street life as a continuous process. In other words, there is no decisive moment. Her analog images, made by holding a 1930’s German Ikonta camera at chest or waist level, rather than on her eye appear to treat random moments as of equal interest to her. A kind of objectivity for Hara is derived from these oddly focused, chance encounters. Hara relies on her intuitive ability to gauge the proper distance to and exposure for her subject while using the camera to capture iconographic moments like other vanguard street photographers. However, unlike the precision of Garry Winogrand’s or Lee Friedlander’s street photography in which we see the relationship between the photographer and the subject, Hara’s indiscriminate method allows her subjects to reveal themselves — making her an invisible flaneur who understands the minutiae of life — such as an insect on a window or a child peeking from a tent.

Mikiko Hara, “Untitled #123” (2008) from the series “Here and There Behind the Clouds“

Although in a New York Times interview with Caroline Hirsch, Hara has described her six-centimeters-square photographs as “all taken by mere accident,” the images in her first solo exhibition, In the Blink of an Eye, at the Miyako Yoshinaga gallery are hardly haphazard. The selection of 20 color photographs taken from 1996 to 2000, heighten prosaic pictures to unusually poignant feeling. Hara finds fleeting moments such as the blurred image of a child behind a translucent curtain from the “Fringes of Articulation,” (2004) series, or the slightly out of focus image of a dog peering out of a car window which she framed against the backdrop of a tall, imposing building from the “Here and There Behind the Clouds,” (2008), series. These transitory occurrences, that would otherwise remain unnoticed, become memorable instances.

Mikiko Hara, “Untitled #128” (2005) from the series “Obsessive Words”

Mikiko Hara’s In the Blink of an Eye is on view at Miyako Yoshinaga gallery (547 West 27th Street, 2nd Floor, Chelsea, Manhattan) until November 11.

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