Making the Eleventh Finger


A hand raised. A finger pointing. Shoulders contracting. All those subtle, everyday gestures, movements made unconsciously, actions gone unheeded.
To photograph those gestures unnoticed, I disguised a small, almost silent film camera.
With my camouflaged camera in hand I went into the town, and with a faint click, click, click, I pushed the shutter without looking into the viewfinder. That’s how I took the photographs in this series.
And I didn’t stop there.
Captured in my photographs were the faces of people who I had shot without their permission. Was I supposed to hide their faces to respect their personality rights? If so, I wanted to avoid the kind of blurred out faces you often see in such photos. I wanted something that would treat them with due respect – yes, I wanted to hide them in a more elegant, refined manner. My solution was these pure white, decorated masks.

In truth, these white masks are made of black paper. I cut the black paper in all sorts of shapes and then use a cutting knife to cut intricate patterns into it.
Then, through a technique that combines photogram and photography, the black cut-outs are made a part of the work. When I print the photos, I place the cut-outs on top of the photographic paper before exposing it. The prints are life-size – up to 2 meters in height.
In that way the photograph is printed on the paper through the small holes (lots of little windows) in the black paper. The parts of the photographic paper covered by the black paper are not exposed to the light and thus become “white shadows.”

The white portions of the work are without gradation, or depth, so they appear flat – very different to the grainy appearance of the printed areas. Achieving this kind of combination of two completely different materials – different dimensions, even – was my goal. And it is achieved by purely analog means.

In the absence of a face, it is the nuance of bodily movement that comes into focus.
And the white shadows interrupt that movement, telling a different story.
“The Eleventh Finger” is my finger that blindly presses the shutter – click, click, click.
Perhaps I’ve captured something good this time? Only by developing the negatives will I tell.


Yuki Onodera, August 2, 2014 translation by Edan Corkill

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