Satoru Watanabe

Born in Yamagata, Japan in 1961. After he earned his B.A. degree
in photography from Nihon University, he worked for a newspaper
company for several years. Since then he has been pursuing a career
as a professional photographer. He shoots portrait pictures for
magazines in Japan and also pictures of his lifework. He is also an
author of several books, "Tabisuru Camera (traveling camera)
series", about his life as a professional photographer.
Gallery TOSEI Tokyo
- "Traverse" Tosei-Sha: Tokyo Japan, 2007
- "Traveling Camera 1, 2, 3, 4" Ei Publishing: Tokyo Japan, 2003,2004, 2007,2011
- "The Last Sunlight of the Afternoon" Mole: Tokyo Japan, 2000
Solo Exhibitions  
- "Silent Shadow Aomori2011", Tokyo, Japan2011
- "da.gasita 2009", Tokyo, Japan 2009
- "traverse", Tokyo, Japan 2007
- "da-gashita in a summer", Tokyo, Japan 2006
- "da-gashita", Tokyo, Japan 2006
- "Portrait-Portraits", Tokyo, Japan 2004
- "Peaceful Days", Tokyo, Japan 2002
- "The Sunlight of the Afternoon ", Tokyo, Japan 2001
- "The Muse Came Down in That Space", Tokyo, Japan 1996
- "Shot My Self", Tokyo, Japan 1993
-Athens National Museum, Greece 2010“da.gasita”
- Griffin Museum, Massachusetts 2009 “da.gasita” “Tokyo Land Scape”
- Quai Branly Museum, Paris 2007 “traverse”

- "Critic's Pick" Griffin Museum, Massachusetts 2009
"da-gasita: Satoru Watanabe"
curated by Martha T.Takayama
(virtual exhibition)Griffin Museum of Photography,Winchester, Mass
"Antilipseis" Greece 2010
curated by Martha T.Takayama
Satoru Watanabe
My name is Satoru Watanabe and I am a professional photographer.
I was born in 1961 and now reside in Tokyo.

When I was sixteen years old, my interest in photography grew in real earnest by the book entitled The Family of Man compiled by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City. The book contained photographs of many renowned photographers from all over the world like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Elliott Erwitt, to name just a few. The photographers had captured special moments that I had never seen. I felt the world beautiful. I was fascinated by the book and had read it repeatedly. I was greatly inspired by the book and I eventually decided to become a professional photographer.

The Family of Man was published in the 50s and was a manifestation of humanity and nature. It is widely known that in those days, the Lifemagazine was very popular with many people. The magazine was a key vehicle for the photographers to report the events that occurred in the world. The value of photograph was in documentary rather than in art.

I majored in photography at the College of Art at Nihon University in Tokyo. The school is well known in Japan for producing many prominent photographers. The school taught me the artistic aspect of photography rather than documentary. In the 80s, commercial photography was most popular with students. We really believed advertising could change our way of life.

It was around then when I encountered the “New Color,” a photographic style from the United States, at a gallery in Tokyo. The photographs were exact opposite to that of the documentary. The “New Color” photographers took cityscapes with large format camera. These pictures monumentalized familiar, everyday subjects without any special moments. Their works took me by surprise as I had thought that it was essential for photography to capture the decisive moment like Henri Cartier-Bresson. At first I couldn't understand their photographs, but later I found them to be interesting and I had realized that decisive moment was not a necessity.

During my student days, I used to take snapshots in black-and-white. It was an old style inspired by the book, The Family of Man. I seldom used color films and I liked making my own prints in the darkroom.

As the graduation day neared and I had to decide my destination, ?wavered between going to the field of advertising or journalism but finally decided to become a press photographer. I think The Family on Man probably had a great influence over my decision. Eventually I got a job at a national sports newspaper in Tokyo. As I was interested in taking pictures of people and wanted to visit many places, I thought it was a best place to work. I took pictures of various international sports tournaments、affairs and events.

In the early days, I felt taking press photo was very exciting but after having covered many sensitive scenes and moments, I gradually began to realize that this job was just not my cup of tea. Also, as a nature of the business, I couldn’t find any time to take my own photographs. I felt inside myself a growing urge to take my own photographs.

After becoming a freelance photographer, I specialized in taking commercial portraits. This has allowed me to use my spare time to take travel sketches as my personal work.

At first, I got interested in small and unmapped islands in Asia. Over the seven - year period, I made several visits to the islands and finally published a photo book in 2000. The book is a collection of photographs of lives on these islands and is entitled The Last Sunlight of The Afternoon. The book made me become an “artistic” photographer.

Until that time, I only took photographs for magazines and on the request from the clients. But after publishing the book, I became more active in having people know my works. I have greatly extended the mileage of my trip and set foot on Europe, America and Asia. Of those countries that I had visited, I especially liked Mongol. I have went there twice and I am planning to go again in 2010. I am trying to create a series on Mongol.

"Transfer" is the theme of my personal work. I frequently take photographs while on travel, but I do not make research of the place where I go. The first thing is my own sensitivity. I do not want to covey the place in detail to the viewers. For me, what I feel there is important. It is as though I am drifting on or scraping the surface.

I do not travel long time. Even at the most, it takes about ten days. I am afraid of getting use to traveling. A maiden land always gives me inspiration. I set out to new place, one after the other. Even if I have to visit the same country, I find different places to go to.

I take photographs not only on traveling abroad, but also rightly in Tokyo where I reside.As much as I make taking photographs of daily life a custom, I am fascinated by the cityscapes of Tokyo. I like the sunlight of Tokyo in the winter when it shines directly and the reflection makes beautiful scenery. I find the light of Tokyo in this season to be most beautiful in the world. I take photographs around my house whenever I have a spare time.

Other than traveling abroad and Tokyo, I have another theme. I have been taking pictures in my hometown Yonezawa recently and for quite some time. It is a small city in the northern part of Japan. It snows heavily and covers everything on the ground. I was born and raised there. I left Yonezawa at the age of eighteen. I seldom came back to Yonezawa in a long while. It was not a place for me to take photographs.

When I was forty-three, I had a serious problem with both of my eyes. My eyesight had suddenly darkened and was bleeding from both retinas. The doctor who inspected my eyes told me that he could not find any specific reason for the abrupt illness. It was sheer luck. I felt devastated with my life. After going through three surgeries, I miraculously made a comeback. When I was in a hospital, I thought about my life, my self, my family, my parents and lastly my hometown. I got to realize that I had not taken photographs of Yonezawa. So I decided to take photographs in Yonezawa. Starting from 2004, I went to Yonezawa on every season for two years. At first, I felt Yonezawa had changed a great deal, but later I found that nothing exactly had change in the root.

I titled this series da.gasita. "Da.gasita" is a dialect spoken in Yonezawa for "Oh I see." It is used when making a casual nod of agreement. I like the sound of its pronunciation. To be exact, the word should be said with a nasal sound at the top.

"Going abroad," "Tokyo life" and "Home town Yonezawa," they are very important keywords for me. My recent collection of photographs on traveling was published in July 2007 as a photo book from Tosei Publishing and is entitled Traverse. The book is composed of two hundred photographs taken in many countries. It includes the daily life in Tokyo, my hometown Yonezawa and things I felt to be impressive in various countries that I visited. Everything is in the book. The meaning of the word "Traverase" is "going zigzag," which is a reflection of my life.

After publishing traverse, I made a through research on art market in Europe. I started out by going to the Arles Photo Festival in 2007, and enrolled to a portfolio review. I was able to show my photographs to many renowned art directors, editors and curator of museums who were the reviewers. Fortunately, my photographs and the book, traverse received an acknowledgement from one of the reviewers and I was introduced to the organizer of the Photo Biennale in Paris.

Five photographs from this book were accepted in the Quai Branly Museum in Paris. I attended the biennale exhibition with these photos in Paris in November 2007. It was a very special experience, as I had never presented my photographs to the people from foreign country. They made comments over my photographs that I had not thought about before. One of the critics pointed out that my work is an expression of "Harmony of humanity and nature," and I felt very delighted to hear such comment.

The following year, I attended the Paris Photo at the Louvre Museum through Gallery Tosei in Tokyo. Tosei Publishing has a photo gallery division as well. They handle my works and hold my exhibition every year. At the Paris Photo, I met many photographs who were popular in Europe and I learnt the recent trend in European photography. As I held a book signing session at the Paris Photo, I had an opportunity to meet Ms. Tepper Takayama, an owner of a gallery named TEPPER TAKAYAMA Fine ARTS Gallery in Boston. She bought my book and she liked my photographs. She offered me to handle my works at her gallery. In 2009, I was given an opportunity from Tepper to exhibit da.gasitaseries of work on the official web site of the Griffin Museum in Massachusetts as "Critic's Pick". The museum acquired my work for their permanent collection. I could now present my photographs not only in Japan but also in America.

Gradually I am beginning to understand where my photograph stands in the art market. The strength of my works is its straightforwardness. In today's art world, "photo making" is the latest trend. However, I have been taking straightforward photographs for a long time. It is my impression that there are many people in the world who accept my works and I have a confidence with what I do. I have no idea of changing my style.