Ken Kitano’s photography has always focused on time and existence and in his series ‘Portrait of Our Face’ he took this idea to its logical conclusion. The idea was beautifully simple. He took portraits of different people from the same social group such as young girls, office workers, farm village women in Bangladesh, monks, soldiers and so on and turned them into a representative image or meta portrait.
To achieve this pictorial image each persons negative was quickly exposed onto the same paper, layered on top of each other, with the eyes carefully aligned. The more faces that were exposed – and up to 40 negatives were used for the final image – the more the contours of an individual became blurred, the expressions and ages more ambiguous. The final picture became what Kitano calls ‘Our Face’.
Here’s what Kitano says about the project:
The contours of an individual become blurred in a ‘Portrait of Our Face’ but it expresses ‘time and light’, which should be unique to the particular group. Needless to say, there is no ranking of the cultures or people.
The project intends to link people of various positions horizontally, without regard for rank or importance, as if each one was a part of a continuous chain. It is like a big circle of images of people with no center.
We frequently hear the word ‘globalization’ but is the world really becoming ‘global’?
‘Globalization’ sounds like a structure where homogeneous people and a single ideology exist centering around one ‘center’ such as the United States or Tokyo. This structure seems to exclude and ignore the people on the periphery or outside of the homogeneous circle or those unwilling to enter the circle.
There is no such thing as ‘the center’ in this world. I imagine the world to be composed of many localities. The aim of this project is to help re-cast the meaning of ‘globalization’ as the accumulation of individuals and localities by presenting the faces of people of various positions and places. The portraits shown in this book are the portraits of yourself and everybody at the same time.
They’re pretty special portraits. Deeply moving and profound. A wonderful example of how visual art, and in particular photography can cut straight through to the point, to the essence of a complex question.