Japanese artist Eiki Mori is an openly gay man living in Tokyo. He has already produced two highly successful books that look at various aspects of gay life in contemporary modern day Japan, both projects using himself as his subject.
The first, Tokyo Boy Alone (2011), looked at the day to day life and experiences of being gay and living in such a huge and impersonal city. Although beautifully photographed and delicately printed, there was a sense of melancholy about the work that would no doubt be familiar to any one, regardless of their sexual orientation, that comes from living alone in such an imposing, impersonal and transient environment.
His follow up title, Intimacy (2013) maintained the autobiographical approach and almost diary style of narrative. It moved the timeline along and found Mori no longer by himself, but now in a relationship. The mood of the work for obvious reasons has a lighter tone and feel, and the book went on to win him the prestigious Kimura Ihei Award in 2014.
For his latest release Mori has turned his attention to the subject of the family, and for this new body of work he has chosen to look at what the concept of family actually means to different people. With this in mind his sexual orientation once again becomes a major factor.
From the Oxford English Dictionary ;
Noun - (treated as singular or plural) A group consisting of two parents and their children living together as a unit.
For many people this will be the only definition. The traditional family unit, the literal sense of bonding and belonging that comes from a blood tie. For others (specifically gay men and women for Mori’s purposes), there in another interpretation of the word.
Far too often - even now, in these more tolerant and enlightened times - many gay men and women still find themselves ostracised by their own "families". More often than not this is a cultural thing, but the ignorance and intolerance still held by many individuals means that these intolerances effectively take many differnt routes to still arrive at the same destination.
Unfortunately it seems time, evolution and personal enlightenment are likely to be the only solutions to these long held and very often inherited and societal prjudices.
Therefore, for those, who through no real fault of their own, find themselves outside of that unit looking in, this search can be about a finding a different kind of family. One connected not by DNA, but by love and support, empathy and understanding, and with that, a sense of belonging. A belonging which for whatever reason will have been denied them not only by society, but many times also, by their own flesh and blood.
Love.....support.... acceptance, not a lot to ask for.
The book, Family Regained is a triumph of both content and design. The colour red dominates the project. From the acetate slip cover, to the red boards...even the thread in it's binding. Red, the colour of blood, of love and passion, of life, of anger... and maybe even jealousy .
And so to the pictures themselves, all shot through a crimson filter, bathing each image in an otherworldly glow. All taken in family homes, sometimes empty, but in the main, with their occupants present.
What stops these being traditional family portraits is the addition of one crucial element, Eiki Mori himself. Present in almost every shot, sometimes naked, more often wearing clothes belonging a to a member of the family pictured in the same frame. Another device used to indicate a desire for belonging, acceptance...inclusion.
These are intimate studies, and whether seated at the dinner table, relaxing in the communal lounge areas or in the privacy of a bedroom, the artist is both ever present and yet somehow spectral. Sometimes a physical presence, assimilated in every sense into the picture. In others, more of a suggestion....a yearning....perhaps even an imploration.
In Mori's own words
"The title is borrowed from the epic, Paradise Regained by English poet John Milton. Back in time when it was a crime for homosexuals to just being in love, there were those who loved with the risk of their life. Lovers who were unaccepted of even imagining of marrying or having children. I photographed imagining The Family of the Future that should have been theirs".
For many people around the world that future, has thankfully arrived. For many others however, it may seem as far away as it did when Milton put pen to paper. For them Family Regained will represent a true aspirational goal, which when you realise we are just talking about basic human rights....is an absolute tragedy.
Yes definitely red for anger.
Family Regained is published by Nanarokusha Japan