Yoshinori Mizutani's new exhibition presents an uplifting photographic slant on the most gloomy of all weather conditions
A long-term inhabitant of Tokyo, Japanese photographer Yoshinori Mizutani is at once enamoured and disenchanted by his chosen city, one of the most ultra-modern and yet unexpectedly green in the developing world. “If you were to ask me whether I love the city, I might hesitate to say yes outright,” he confesses. “Still, I cannot deny the fact that Tokyo is the city that always inspires me to create new work. I get inspiration from things that are around me, whether it’s a city or nature.”
Perhaps due to his persistent ability to view the everyday from extraordinary new angles, a recent project of Mizutani’s is concerned entirely with the rain, and all of the possibilities it presents. His story about the project’s earliest beginning is irresistibly charming. “One rainy day, I looked down on an intersection from a high vantage point in a high-rise, and that experience formed the foundation of the series,” he explains. “Umbrellas that could be seen at the foot of the high-rise looked like flowers that had bloomed in a city. The zebra crossings, umbrellas and vehicles were simultaneously so beautiful and strange – it all looked as if it had been placed there as part of a grand visual design within the city.”
The series, aptly entitled Rain, comprises three elements that were made evincible to Mizutani on that fateful day: zebra crossings, pedestrians held-concealed by umbrellas, and yellow taxicabs. True to his word, the images are not so much a documentation of gloomy weather as a joyous celebration of the wonders that can arise from happy accidents – such as looking out of the window at the perfect time. “I always strive to offer the viewer an alternative perspective on and understanding of what we believe is a ‘normal life’, and the same can be said of the Rain series,” the photographer continues. “I myself had a negative and almost gloomy view of rain before creating this new series. I wouldn’t go out when it was raining if I could help it. If I had to go somewhere, I’d just try to get to my destination as quickly as possible; I never ever had a motive to observe what was around me when it was raining, and I wouldn’t shoot in it, either. Rain, however, changes how we go about our business, and gives a different ambience to the cityscapes and environments we live in. Rain is part of our everyday life, but what it makes visible to us is not necessarily everyday life as we know it. Even if it’s an ordinary object that you’re looking at, you see it in a different light when you slightly shift your viewpoint, or change how you’d approach it, enhancing the way you perceive the world. Rain has taught me that.”
The series is the subject of a new exhibition at London’s Webber Gallery Space, alongside pieces from previous works Yusurika, a series dedicated to tiny details from the natural world – newly shooting leaves, falling blossom, oil training in puddles and the like – and Tokyo Parrots, which diligently documents the birds dominating Tokyo’s skyline. It makes for a brilliantly uplifting spread, and a reminder to look twice at the natural, and unnatural, world – as will his newest offering, it seems. “I'm shooting a series themed upon nature,” Mizutani reveals, when pressed. “I cannot go into detail as it’s an on-going project, but the images I have so far are more like ones I’d imagine than actual landscapes you’d see with your own eyes.”
Yoshinori Mizutani, Rain, runs from May 20 until June 21 at Webber Gallery Space, London.