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美術・写真

Photographer Taku Arai captures everyday life, reality and the future using the 19th century technique of the daguerreotype

19 世紀の技法「ダゲレオタイプ」で写す日常と現実、未来 写真家・ 新井卓さん

Be prepared and take your position

--What is the process of photographing a daguerreotype?

The first step is to polish the silver plate, then sensitize it with chemicals, photograph it, develop it, and fix it. It takes about 3 to 4 hours to complete the entire process for an 8x10 screen.

Polishing takes a minimum of 1.5 hours and a maximum of 3 hours. Sometimes the shoot only takes a few seconds, but when it's longer, I have to ask the other person to stay still, so I stay still. I feel like I'm just waiting, leaving it to the other person and the environment, and I can't intervene.

Video: Tomoe Otsu / Music: Takeyasu Ando / Cooperation: Tokyo Metropolitan Daigo Fukuryumaru Exhibition Hall
Takashi Arai/Production process for the Daigo Fukuryu Maru multifocal monument from Takashi Arai on Vimeo .

--It seems that you are still refining your skills.

I've gotten pretty good at polishing, but there are still a few things I don't understand, and I still don't quite understand how to time the sensitization process with iodine gas that follows. I know it's probably around this range through trial and error, but it feels like it's still an experiment.

During the photosensitization process, the image disappears after a few seconds of lag, but since the humidity and temperature vary from day to day, the reaction speed changes. It's difficult because it's not necessarily proportional to the temperature, and you have to do it based on the conditions at the time and with your physical sensations.

――Why did you choose daguerreotype as your production method, even though it is such a time-consuming process?

Immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake, I was asked by an overseas magazine to take pictures of the disaster area, so I brought out my digital camera, but I couldn't take any pictures. As a professional, I have taken on many different jobs, but for the first time I had to turn down a job mid-way through.I felt frustrated, or rather, just when I thought it wouldn't work, I happened to be able to take a photo of a daguerreotype. That was all I had.

Multi-Focus Monument for the Lucky Dragon No.5, 2013
《Multifocal Monument for Daigo Fukuryu Maru》2013

In particular, the first thing I felt when I picked up a digital camera in Fukushima was that I didn't really understand where I was standing, or rather, I felt like I was taking away even more from a place that had already been damaged. It felt like I was taking pictures and running away. On the other hand, with daguerreotypes, you have to set up a darkroom tent on-site, and the camera is large, so you can't escape. Once you decide to take a photo, you have to stay there for the entire day. I was tested in that way, and once I prepared myself for it, my position became stable and I started to think that it was okay to take pictures.

“Nuclear” as “reality” in life

--I heard that you started creating works related to nuclear weapons after your encounter with the Daigo Fukuryu Maru (which was exposed to the atomic bomb in the US hydrogen bomb test).

I'm often told that my theme is nuclear, but I personally don't have a set theme at all, and I photograph just about anything, but it just so happens that nuclear issues are the one that has the biggest impact on my life. I had no choice but to accept it. To tell you the truth, I have never once thought about using nuclear as a theme in my work. When I visited Fukushima, I wondered why Japan had become such a nuclear power, and as I researched it more and more, I later learned that it was connected to the atomic bomb and a secret agreement between Japan and the United States. Rather than deciding on a theme, it was something that felt very real to me in my daily life.

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