Yuki Onodera: A Creative Journey over Two Decades
Curator, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography
Clothes displayed in front of an open window (“Portrait of Second-hand Clothes”). Silhouettes of women resembling fashion models, images of streetlamps at night and scenes of ancient ruins faintly visible within their outlines (“Transvest”). A white sphere floating above the heads of groups of people shrouded in darkness (“How to Make a Pearl”) A display of a beaded toy dog, a bag of snack food, and other ephemera arranged like a classical still life (“12 Speed”).
The work of Yuki Onodera has a charm and uniqueness that transcends the accepted notions of the nature of photography. She physically alters the camera, manipulates images with a computer, and creates montages and collages to transform ordinary scenes and objects into a visual world that stretches the imagination. Examining her work as a whole is like opening a treasure chest of images, filled with all sorts of sparkling photographic ideas. All of them are crafted with extreme cleverness, casting a spell over us like masterful illusions, exerting a unique fascination and leading the viewer to ask expectantly what sleight of hand she will perform next. At the same time, a critical examination of the nature of photography itself flows as an undercurrent throughout her work.
Based in Paris, Onodera has been active on the international scene for two decades, constantly pushing the boundaries of her art and the genre of photography. In this essay, I will follow the development of her career and try to identify the secret of her creative force.
1991–93 : From New Cosmos of Photography to Paris
Onodera was born in Tokyo in 1962. After graduating from Kuwazawa Design School, she found work at an apparel maker as an accessories designer, but she was unhappy working in commercial fashion, dominated as it inevitably is by the marketplace and the latest popular fads, and she decided to become a photographer. She is self-taught. At the beginning she used her father’s camera, and her initial efforts were snapshots of street scenes and photographs of abstract paintings or objects of her own creation. In 1991, she entered “You Are Running. I’m Waiting with Ears Like Dumbo’s”, eleven black-and-white gelatin silver prints mounted in an A3 size sketchbook, in the first New Cosmos of Photography exhibition. With its surrealistic title, this series consists of photos over which box-shaped spaces, window frames, and circles resembling the disk of the sun, the phases of the moon, and drops of water seem to be superimposed. It was praised for its “mysteriously eerie quality” and was awarded the 1st New Cosmos of Photography Award.1 At the same time, Onodera was making the series “Dog” (1991, p. 159), in which she photographed herself in various settings outdoors in the middle of the night, wearing a white sheet, like a child in a Halloween ghost costume, sometimes as multiple images in a single photograph. The idea of a mysterious, floating white object led to her next series, “White and Sphere” (1993, p. 160), in which white spheres are seen floating and bouncing like balls in a library, a living room, a deserted old house, transforming familiar scenes into visions from another dimension.
These three early series, while abstract, expertly create an evocatively poetic atmosphere through their visual composition. In 1993, Onodera personally installed her first exhibition, also called “White and Sphere”, at the Hosomi Gallery in Tokyo. The same year, she collaborated on a book, 25 Ounce-no-Neko (25-Ounce Cat, Hakusuisha), which combined her photographs with the poetry of Sayuri Komi, and attracted widespread attention from the photography and art worlds. This did not lead to new opportunities in Japan, however, and she departed for Paris that year.
What was the world of photography like in Japan in 1990, when Onodera debuted as a photographer, and why did she go to Paris?
The New Cosmos of Photography Award, which first recognized Yuki Onodera, was established as an open public competition to discover and promote fresh talent in the field of photography. The three selection committee members, Kotaro Iizawa (photography critic), Nobuyoshi Araki (photographer), and Fumio Nanjo (curator of contemporary art) were all committed to fostering new talent from their varying perspectives. The field of photography in Japan at the time was dominated by commercial and journalistic photography, and this public competition, the first opportunity for those interested in art photography to exhibit their work, together with Hitotsubo Exhibition of Photography that started in 1992, contributed significantly to building the foundation for the new photography of the 1990s, in particular offering recognition and support to many new female photographers whose work was unique and fresh in style, such as Junko Takahashi, HIROMIX, Rika Noguchi, Mika Ninagawa, and Tomoko Sawada.2
As the name of the contest, the New Cosmos of Photography Award, indicates, photography was entering a new phase in Japan in the 1990s. From the late 1970s, numerous new galleries and museums showing photographic work opened,3 and photographs first became collectible items in the art market. Up to then, the main media for photography were books and magazines, and gelatin silver prints were widely regarded as little more than the source materials for the printing process, but once the prints began to be exhibited in galleries and museums, they came to be regarded as art works in themselves. Installations became popular as exhibitions in the 1990s, drawing the fields of contemporary art and photography closer together. Onodera is representative of this trend.
What was going on in France, were Onodera relocated? Jean-Luc Monterosso, the director of the prestigious French photography festival Mois de la Photo (Month of Photography), describes the photography world in Paris at the time: “An unprecedented creativity was awakened. The prevailing American influence was discarded, and a new vision and praxis was advanced, filled with curiosity and an impassioned questioning”.4 The Mois de la Photo began in 1980, leading to the creation of large public photography collections and the establishment of a national school of photography. It attracted many avant-garde photographers, which in turn led to an increase in both the number and quality of galleries handling their work and public support for the artists—which included even subsidized housing for foreign photographers who had joined the artists union. Paris was, quite simply, the ideal city for Onodera.
The French word photographie (as well, of course, as the English word photography), means “painting with light”—quite different from the Japanese word shashin, which literally means “to copy reality”. Onodera has said, “An elderly woman would go to her local photography studio, take out a photograph of her cat, and ask that the eyes be made blue. When I saw that the people of this country thought nothing about changing the color of photographs, I was astonished”. Onodera was fostered as a photographer in this land where photographs, as “paintings in light”, are regarded as a form of visual art rather than mere documents.
1994–96 : The Three-Part Series “Down”
Recognizing that you’re in an unstable, suspended state and looking at the world from that perspective, everything becomes visible. You’re forced to become a foreigner, who doesn’t belong to anything. You need to understand that even the earth you’re standing on is just a fiction.5
After settling in Paris, Onodera began work on her first series there, “Liquid and Glass” (pp. 142–55), consisting of photographs of a toppled glass with liquid spilled out of it. She did this repeatedly, as if sketching. The surface tension of the liquid makes it appear like a congealed mass just about to flow, a minor accident, captured in the soft interior light. By making the objects appear much larger than actual size, she uncovers a mysterious yet alluring instability lurking within an extremely ordinary scene from daily life.
Her next series is “Portrait of Second-hand Clothes” (pp. 142–55). In it, she places second-hand clothes against the open window of her apartment in Montmartre, sets off flashes at the white walls of her apartment, and photographs the clothes in their reflected light. Onodera brought the clothes home from the exhibition “Dispersion” (1993) by the artist Christian Boltanski. Visitors to the exhibition were encouraged to take the clothes home with them, which is what Onodera did. Taking these items that Boltanski used as a symbol of a historic tragedy, Onodera displays them one at a time against the backdrop of her open window, restoring their individuality and creating a bodiless photographic portrait. The heavy gray skies of Paris in the background and the harmony of the light filtering through the clouds suggest the absolutely unique and individual existences of the people who once wore the clothes.
Onodera created another series at her window as the same time, “Birds” (pp. 140–41), in which she captures flocks of startled pigeons taking flight in all directions. The photograph is filled with overlapping layers of birds’ wings, capturing their dynamism as they extend broadly in an almost panicked disarray and the movement of the rushing air.
In 1995, Onodera combined these three series under the title “Down” and exhibited it at three Tokyo galleries. “Down Part 1: Liquid and Glass” was shown at Zeit-Foto Salon (March 6–25), “Down Part 2: Portrait of Second-hand Clothes“ was shown at Galleria Chimera (February 28–March 25, and “Down Part 3: Birds” was shown at Aki-Ex Gallery (March 18–April 28). Onodera explains that the common theme of all three parts was “the unstable state of being suspended in the air”—a perfect description of her own situation in Paris, and at the same time a declaration of her determination to press on with her creative work in a foreign land.
This first Tokyo exhibition of her Paris work produced a strong impression of the changes she had undergone. In particular, the power and bold scale of the large-format square prints of “Portrait of Second-hand Clothes“ and “Birds” (115 centimeters x 115 centimeters) forced viewers to acknowledge her leap to a new level. Kotaro Iizawa of the New Cosmos of Photography Award expressed his astonishment as follows: “The series collected in ‘Down’ are on an entirely different plane from her earlier series. The same refined sensibility is still there, but the somehow tentative quality of the earlier work is entirely gone and the new work displays a clearly defined, powerful form. . . . At the very least, one can conclude that her time in Paris has been a great success.”6
From this point Onodera’s work earned growing recognition in Paris. In 1995 she exhibited “Portrait of Second-hand Clothes“ at l’Institut Français de la Mode (November 30–December 23). The following year, the same series was awarded the Prix Kodak de la Critique Photographique. In 1997 she exhibited all three parts of “Down” at Galerie Laage-Salomon, with whom she signed an exclusive contract. Located in the Marais section of Paris, the gallery had introduced such photographers as Georg Baseliz and A. R. Penck. The photograhers Hannah Collins, John Baldessari, Axel Hutte, Candida Höfer, and Tracey Moffatt were also active at this time, and Onodera, inspired by this stimulating milieu, quickly grew into an artist of international stature.
1997–99 : “Camera”, “C. V. N. I.”, “P. N. I.”
Aiming two cameras at each other, peeling the labels from cans, cutting the faces out of a photo—these are like little pranks I engage in. But those pranks result in something that cannot be undone, and can have dramatic results.
In the 1997 2nd Tokyo International Photo-Biennale at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Onodera exhibited a new work, “Camera” (pp. 122–23). In it, she aimed two cameras at each other in a dark room, pressing the shutters at the same instant, capturing the flash of the camera that was the subject of the photograph on the film in the second camera. In this work, there is no photographer or photographed. It’s just a close up of a camera lens, which she printed in an enlarged 120 x 144 centimeter format. Onodera purposely didn’t put film in the camera that was to be the subject. She included a diagram in the exhibition showing the placement of the two cameras and an explanation that the camera with the film in it was aimed at the infinite expanse of space behind the camera, which was the subject. This idea of “a photograph of something refusing to be photographed”, of a photograph that cannot be taken”, is a demonstration of a strong interest in the very act of photography, including a skeptical and critical stance toward it.
The next exhibition of Onodera’s work in Japan was her invitation to participate in the Gunma Biennale for Young Artists ’99 and a solo exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, Gunma, where she presented, in addition to “Portrait of Second-hand Clothes” and “Camera”, two new series, “C. V. N. I.” (pp. 124–31) and “P. N. I.” (pp. 132–37).
“C. V. N. I.” depicts canned goods with the labels peeled off floating in space as if they’d been thrown into the air. The large, slightly unfocused silver cylinders floating in the middle of the 109 × 77 centimeter prints are a strange presence of unknown contents.
“P. N. I.” consists of 109 × 83 centimeter prints with images resembling faces centered in them. These are not the faces of actual people, but collages of faces patched together from facial features clipped out of magazines and newspapers and arranged by a kind of “pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey” method. By placing the parts of the faces over clay, Onodera created a feeling of volume.
Underlying both of these series is a critique of identity in mass consumer society. The cans are mass-produced objects that can only be identified by their labels. Though the cut-out eyes, noses and mouths are pasted together in preposterously unbalanced combinations, and the images are so out of focus to be just barely recognizable as human faces, our visual sense insists on identifying them as people. Both series point to the vagueness and the dangers of the way in which we identify others. “C. V. N. I.” stands for Conserve Volant Non Identifié (unidentified flying canned goods), a play on objet volant non identifié, or unidentified flying object, and “P. N. I.” for Portrait Non Identifiés, or unidentified portraits.
2000–2001 : “How to Make a Pearl”, “Zoo”, “Look Out the Window”
“How to Make a Pearl” (pp. 96–109) is another one of Onodera’s little pranks that has produced dramatic results. Her curiosity about the insides of a box camera she found at a flea market led her to conceive of this series, she says. That idea combined with snippets of information she’d heard about how glass marbles and pearls are made, and after all this had percolated in her mind for some time, she came upon the idea for this series.
Onodera’s unique mode of expression in photography is to start not by deciding what to photograph but experimenting with the process of taking photographs itself, often leading to unexpected and startling visual results. In this series she is photographing groups of people on the street during the day, but they appear engulfed in darkness, with a vague white sphere floating toward the top of the image, an effect created by inserting a small glass marble in the camera, which collects and diffuses the light. An “accident” taking place within the black box of the camera transforms ordinary reality into a phantasm or mirage.
In addition, Onodera chemically manipulated the development process to expand the grain of the print to the maximum degree possible. The almost violently enlarged grains of the blown-up images have become the material of the work, lifting the groups of people out of the surrounding darkness. The sheer size of the work makes viewers feel as if they are seeing the image from inside the camera. The title of the series, obviously, refers to the way a pearl is formed by the introduction of a foreign object into a mollusk shell.
Onodera uses a glass marble to produce another type of image in “Zoo” (pp. 120–21), which uses the technique of double exposure to superimpose the image of a glass marble over the eyes of animals from zoos around the world. In “How to Make a Pearl” the marble is inside the camera, creating light from the inside, but in “Zoo” the marble is employed as an external means to capture the images of the animals’ eyes. These two series embody contrasting approaches to the mysterious results of combining light with a transparent glass marble.
“Look Out the Window” (pp. 110–19) was photographed in the suburbs of Tokyo. A small house stands in the darkness. The light from within the house glows softly from its widows, making the house seem like a light source. Onodera chose houses that reflected certain fads in home design, such as European or Scandinavian-style houses, because she sensed they would be torn down after their present owners left them (or as she put it, they seemed to have “short life spans”). With windows that both let in and emit light, the houses become dematerialized light sources, just like the glass marble.
In 2001 Onodera presented this new work at two Tokyo galleries. In 2002, she published her first collection of photographs, containing all nine earlier series, as Camerachimera (Tokyo: Suiseisha, 2002), which won the Kimura Ihei Award the following year.
2002–03 : “Transvest”, “Liquid, TV and Insect”, “The Bee—The Mirror”
In my case , the moment an idea first occurs to me is not as important as the period over which the idea I’ve captured ripens and develops in some corner or my mind. Over time, the idea grows, changes, and sometimes suddenly mutates. It can take four or five years sometimes. Then suddenly I have the confidence that I can realize it.
Onodera began producing the series “Transvest” (pp. 9–25) in 2002 and is still working on it. The prints in “Transvest” show various figures in silhouette, but they are not actual people. Instead, they’ve been created by assembling silhouettes from images cut out from magazines and other print sources, photographed as if by backlighting. If one examines the images carefully, it becomes clear that the silhouette is not cut from a single piece of paper but a collage of fragments of other images—streetlights at night, microscopic photography reproduced from books, scenes showing historical ruins—obscured by the printing process and the back lighting to the point that they are almost imperceptible but partly visible here and there. The more closely one looks at these works, the more ambiguous their makeup becomes. Onodera started with the idea of the protective camouflage of insects. As it developed, camouflage evolved into fashion and the insects into people. “Transvest” means to cross dress, or wear the clothing of another gender.
“Liquid, TV and Insect” (pp. 36–39), is a montage of the virtual image of an insect “collected” from a TV broadcast with a photograph of actual liquid, producing a juxtaposition of two entirely different visual qualities. Like “Transvest”, it leads us into a completely novel visual realm that combines the virtual and the real in a single image.
Onodera employs two distinct approaches in producing her works, creating an image from visual effects, or making the act of photography itself the focus of the work. “Transvest” is an example of the former, while “Bee–Mirror” (pp. 26–35) is an example of the latter. In “Bee–Mirror”, she selected an apartment as the setting for the series, taking photographs in the middle of the night while holding a flashlight in one hand. The images are scenes from the apartment reflected in a mirror. The method by which the photographs were taken is not apparent from the finished images, but they give the sense of being from the perspective of a little bee that has found its way into the home, inviting us to share a mysteriously thrilling visual experience with the artist.
2004–05 : “Roma—Roma”, “Watch Your Joints!”
I didn’t want to choose the places I photographed. So I just selected the place name Roma. What connects these two Romas to each other are their common name, the idea of the stereo camera, and my moving body.
In 2004, Onodera had exhibitions in Berlin and Paris and also showed two new series in Tokyo, “Roma—Roma” (pp. 68–79) and “Watch Your Joint!” (pp. 40–47). The scenery in “Roma—Roma” is not of Rome, Italy, but two other Romas in Europe, one on a Swedish island in the Baltic Sea and the other in Spain. Onodera visited these two Romas and photographed them with a stereo camera. Exploiting the potential of the double lenses, she photographed Roma in Sweden with the right lens and Roma in Spain with the left. Placing the focus in this work on the process prior to the actual photography, Onodera made her journey to the places the main purpose, unaffected by either her presence or her subjective will.
Though they appear to be color photos, in fact they’re black-and-white prints that have been carefully hand-colored with brush and oils. With a vision of nineteenth-century postcards in mind, Onodera comments that “I would have liked to have employed a specialized craftsman to do the color tinting if I could”, in an attempt to completely negate her artistic presence in this work.
In contrast, in “Watch Your Joint!” in which Onodera has used a computer to capture still shots of soccer games broadcast on television, it’s the subjects that have been deprived of meaning. She has selected several moments during the game just as if she were choosing from among negatives, erased the uniform insignia, altered the athletes’ faces, and otherwise manipulated the images—for example, by adding balls in some scenes. When the context of the soccer game is eliminated, the scenes lose their reality as moments of complex group motion with a particular vector, and are reduced to a record of seemingly random, arbitrary movements. This particular work was created by computer, without a camera, but Onodera says she never even noticed this fact until she had finished it. Positioning herself in polar opposition to the aim sports photography, which seeks to capture the decisive moment of a goal or a victory, Onodera focuses instead on the violent motions of bodies colliding with such force that it sends them flying off the ground.
In 2005, Onodera exhibited all fourteen of the series that she completed in Paris, from “Portrait of Second-hand Clothes” to “Roma–Roma” and “Watch Your Joint!” at The National Museum of Art, Osaka, introducing her richly expressive and varied oeuvre to Japanese critics, journalists, and the media and offering very convincing evidence of the artistry she had cultivated in her decade away from Japan.
2006 : “Below Orpheus” and “Eleventh Finger”
In 2006 Yuki Onodera gained international recognition when she was awarded France’s most prestigious photography award, the Prix Niépce7, and a commemorative exhibition of her work was held simultaneously at the Nates Photography Festival and two independent Paris galleries. The same year she became the first Japanese to have a solo exhibition at the Shanghai Art Museum, her five solo exhibition that year, and she participated in twenty group exhibitions in 2006 alone. She also exhibited “Below Orpheus” (pp. 56–67) and “Eleventh Finger” (pp. 48–55) in Tokyo that year.
“Below Orpheus”, like “Roma—Roma”, takes Onodera’s movements as its theme, but while “Roma—Roma” avoided subjective judgments, this series takes as its material an actual missing persons case that occurred in a certain hotel room, with Onodera playing the role of a kind of detective following up on the case. Onodera happened to stay in the same hotel room some time after the incident. She found herself thinking about the missing individual and taking photographs of the room. She decided that the person must be on the exact opposite side of the globe from the room, so she took her photographs with the camera set at the height of the ceiling and aimed down at the floor of the room, then traveled to the opposite side of the Earth and photographed the precise antipodean coordinates with a Polaroid, again aimed down at the ground. The exact latitude and longitude of each scene is indicated along the bottom of the photograph. They are printed with eighteenth-century type at the bottom of the hand-made paper the Polaroids are mounted on, and with moveable type using the photogram process on the large format photos of the hotel room’s interior in gelatin silver print on fiber base paper. By using type that predates the invention of the camera, she adds a new layer of mystery, creating a story of instantaneous travel through space and time.
Underlying this severance of any connection between the scene and the individual photographer by establishing some rule or story and then automatically following it as you photograph one can see an attraction to the anonymous photographs of scenery that appeared immediately after the invention of photography. Onodera is always striving to return to the starting point of the relationship between people and photographs.
The “Eleventh Finger” series, started in 2006 and still ongoing today, focuses on people’s unconscious physical movements photographed without looking through the viewfinder. The subjects’ faces are covered by pieces of white paper with numerous holes punctured in them, like lace, which were added to the print through the photogram process. This step also obscures the significance of the movements captured in the photos, rendering them oddly humorous, while also addressing the issue of the right to privacy. The title refers to the ten fingers of the individuals being photographed and the one finger pressing the shutter.
2007–08 : “Annular Eclipse” and “12 Speed”
Onodera showed her new work “Annular Eclipse” (pp. 80–81) in the 1907 Shanghai Art Museum “Japan Caught by Camera” exhibition. These are silk screen pieces and were produced in a Chinese workshop. It’s a mammoth format 2.5 meters in height that took eight craftsmen and thirty-eight printings to produce. Onodera says that the idea to try the printing process came to her because she was thinking, in the context of the rapid ongoing shift from gelatin silver to ink-jet printing, about what printing techniques would prevail in the post-gelatin silver print era. Framed in a halo of light like the “Annular Eclipse” of the title, the method of collages of young women paired with animals in backlit silhouette bears a resemblance to that employed in “Transvest”.
In 2008 Onodera exhibited a new work in Tokyo, “12 Speed” (pp. 82–94). Two versions of the work were created, an inkjet color print and a gelatin silver print. Sitting on a table the same color as the light pink wall in the background are a mélange of objects that might be found in a young girl’s bedroom—headphones, a bag of snack food, a glass of milk, a toy made of beads. Though it is a collection of kitsch, the items are arranged as if they were a classical Western still life painting. Green trees are reflected in the mirror in the center of the composition.
“12 Speed” was taken in the middle of Fontainebleau forest, though the only clue to this are the trees reflected in the mirror. In each of the twelve photos of the two sets, the position of the mirror is shifted slightly to produce a subtly different view of the trees. The difference is very slight, and at first glance they appear to be twelve replicas of the same shot. This is the kind of sequence that can only be achieved through photography, and is one of the things that distinguishes photography from painting. A graffiti-style arrow and what looks like code are written on the wall. Onodera says this means “eternity”. One is reminded of Nietzsche’s concept of the eternal return, the same moment repeating forever over a limitless temporal axis. In other words, the sequence of photographs using the same props and backdrop are a metaphor for the idea that the present existed in the past and that the future will be reformulated once again from exactly the same elements. But the subtle changes in the appearance of the trees reflected in the mirror represent a chronological progression that negates the uniformity of each moment. This skilful puzzle embedded in a pile of kitsch objects seems to be an allegory of the infinity of time and the finite nature of matter.
Onodera has created one visual world surpassing our imagination after another. The ideas that seem to gush forth from her mind like an endless spring may appear to manifest themselves speedily in her work, but she has said that, on the contrary, it usually takes several years for an idea to actually be realized as a finished work. Onodera treats photographs not as images but as objects, and from her photography process to the size of the finished works, she gives plastic form to her images only through the most painstaking planning. She pays great attention to the material qualities of the paper she prints her work on, and in the darkroom she engages in many complex processes, manipulating light exposure, chemically altering the grain of prints, and doing whatever is necessary to bring her images to life on the fiber-based paper she uses. She strives to eliminate any subjective intercession of the artist in the moment when the image is developed onto the film, but her method before and after that moment is richly creative.
What’s the source of this creativity? Onodera has said that she named her series “How to Make a Pearl” in reference to the way a foreign object entering a mollusk’s shell stimulates it to enclose the object in a protective layer that gradually grows into a pearl. It seems to me this is a good description of her creative process as well, which starts when a foreign object, the kernel of an idea, lodges itself in Onodera’s mind. That foreign object is photography itself. Since it’s invention, photography has exerted an immeasurable influence on the way we see the world. Through her creative work, through photography, Onodera expresses her interest in and curiosity about photography as a medium for perceiving the world, as well as her skepticism about and criticism of its limitations. These questions are always within her, like the seeds of pearls, and this is why they possess such mysterious allure.
Today, through digitalization, with the development of virtual modes of visual representation and communication, the relationship between people and photographs, people and images, is becoming ever more complex. “Images, and in particular digital images, are like illusions that cannot exist alone, and soon disappear”, says Onodera. Regarding photographs as material objects, she has said that she finds herself drawn to nineteenth-century photographic portraits, and she is also thinking about ways to restage events that took place before the invention of photography. As long as Onodera does not solve the puzzle of the photograph, she will continue to form pearls, and they will tempt us farther into the labyrinth of her art.
Translated by Jeffrey Hunter
- Selection Committee member Fumio Nanjo made this remark. The Grand Prize in the exhibition was awarded to Iori Kinoshita; Onodera was among eleven awarded the 1st New Cosmos of Photography Award.
- HIROMIX and Noguchi were awarded the grand prize in 1995 and 1996, and Takahashi, Ninagawa, and Sawada won the award in 1993, 1996, and 200, respectively.
- Examples of galleries specializing in photographic work are the Zeit-Foto Salon (opened 1978) and Photo Gallery International (opened 1979). The Kawasaki City Museum (1988) and the Yokohama Museum of Art (1989) opened in 1988 and 1989 respectively, with photography departments, and in 1991 the first Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography opened, in temporary quarters, reopening in its present location in 1995.
- Exhibition catalogue, Photographie française: La d écennie créative, 1980–90 (Tokyo: Metropolitan Museum of Photography, 1992), pp. 10–11.
- The statements made by Onodera prefacing each section are from an interview with the artist by the author published in the Tokyo Metropolitan Photography Museum journal eye (June 2010).
- Kotaro Iizawa “Down to Zero”, Kitchin Kimaira vol. 7, June, 1995.
- Named after Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (1765–1833), one of the inventors and an early pioneer of photography. The award was given to such eminent photographers as to Robert Doisneau (1912–94) in 1956, Jeanloup Sieff (1933–2000) in 1959, to Japanese photographer and to Keiichi Tahara (b. 1951) in 1988.