“This series is a play on the images conveyed by Japan through different societal archetypes: geisha, robots, dolls, salarymen, kimonos, yakuzas, sumos, etc. These are the images on which the exotic Western imagination has been built for a century and a half, following the opening up of Japan at the end of the 19th century during the Meiji era – whose name is derived from the kanji “light”, the foundation of photography. It is also a play on the concept of photographic truth in the fluctuating relationship that a documentary work can establish with fiction. As filmmaker Chris Marker wrote, “Inventing Japan is just another way of getting to know it” (Nicolas Boyer).
In the case of a word acrobat, one would speak of someone being “sharp-tongued.” For a photographer, however, the appropriate term is still lacking. Boyer’s imagery not only hits the mark with precision but also gets closer to the heart of the matter than the sharpest pen can. The title of his book plays on the Japanese word “giri,” which denotes a social obligation. Boyer’s Japan cycle is a special masterpiece, for what he stages for the camera is a Japan as seen through the cultural history of Europe – imagined in the guise of exotic remoteness and crafty stereotypes. Boyer’s photographs confront this superficial appearance with the reality on the ground as a clever unmasking. While the view behind the curtain of one’s own imagination can also be oppressive, in Boyer’s work, however, it is infused at the same time with subtle humor that makes any critique of perception an absolute pleasure.
About the Author
Nicolas Boyer (b.1972) studied at GOBELINS, l’école de l’image in Paris and then worked as an art director. He found his true calling and also international fame as a street photographer with a special eye for the unusual. His honors include the Sony World Photo Award.
In 2016, he joins the Studio Hans Lucas, one of the main French groups of professional photo reporters thanks to cooptation by its founder, Wilfrid Estève,
Never having left his comfort zone, apart from having inadvertently entered a compartment reserved for women on the Cairo subway, he goes mainly through urban landscapes, often wondering “what am I fucking doing here.”