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The 16th “1_WALL” Photography Competition Grand Prize Winner

Kenji Chiga Exhibition: “Suppressed Voice”

  • DATES : Tue. January 30 - Fri. February 16, 2018
  • HOURS : 11:00a.m. - 7:00p.m.
  • Closed Sundays and Holidays. Admission free.

Kenji Chiga won the 16th “1_WALL” Photography Competition with “Bird, Night, and then,” his work focused on the choices and possibilities for staying alive open to young boys who have lost their hopes and dreams in India, a country where academic credentials mean everything, because they are on the wrong end of the caste hierarchy. The judges praised Chiga highly for the way he probed a new documentary form different from all previous photojournalistic methods.

Chiga studies the literature dealing with the issues faced by the people he meets in India, and photographs while carrying out his local investigations. Although he is addressing social issues, Chiga believes that photographing realities isn’t the only way to get close to these issues; instead, he reconstructs reality while weaving together a fictional story to convey what lies more at the core of the issues at hand. Through his photographs and the story they tell, he attempts to convey political and social background, the structure of people’s feelings, and at times attendant irrationalities—not knowing where the correct answer lies, and even feeling no need to seek after the correct answer.

This exhibition will showcase a new series of photographs taken by Chiga in India after he won the Grand Prize last year. Dealing with the theme of child labor in India, the story Chiga’s photos tell is of a young boy who, forced to leave school and go to work, disappears—and is ultimately found.

On February 7 (Wed), Kenji Chiga will participate in a Talk Event together with art director Atsuki Kikuchi.


Kenji Chiga
Born in 1982, in Shiga Prefecture. Graduated from Osaka University. After graduation, he moved to Tokyo to work as an assistant to a fashion photographer. Subsequently he participated in various workshops and mastered how to create works with a documentary touch.

2017  Shortlisted for the Kassel Dummy Award, with “happn” and “Bird, Night, and then”
2017  Grand Prize in the 16th “1_WALL” Photography Competition
2016  Four works selected for inclusion in the Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts’ “Young Portfolio”
2016  Honorary Mention for the Life Framer “HUMANS OF THE WORLD” award
2016  Bronze Prize in the Book Documentary Category at the Tokyo International Foto Awards
2014  Selected for inclusion in the Photography Category of the Japan Advertising Photographers’ Association (APA) Awards

Message from the Artist
In October 2016, a young boy disappeared from school.

In India, a country said to have 4 million, or by some accounts more than 8 million, child laborers, in July 2016 the Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act was amended to prohibit, in principle, labor by children under the age of 14. But my friend, who is now 16, lies outside that regulation and was forced to get work as a migrant laborer. He ended up working in a cloth shop in a city in southern India.

Before setting out on his journey to work in a place 1,500 kilometers from his home, he thought about what he should take with him, and he chose an English textbook. From the look on his face as he talks about his situation in life and the way he works without voicing any dissatisfaction, I felt I was looking at one person giving his best shot at his job, but within whom there was another person on the verge of vanishing.

Kenji Chiga

Message from One of the Judges
These days, the power of photography to convey a message is coming into focus again. Although photographs undeniably are weak in terms of speedy reporting and scope of distribution, photography is a medium that is very suited to tracing in detail a specific event that takes place within a small community. Kenji Chiga is a standard-bearer of this “new photojournalism.” Looking at the photographs he has created in India, it is clear that here, little by little, is the nascent form of a new grammar of visual expression—a form burgeoning to become a structure that is soft and yet powerfully convincing.

Kotaro Iizawa (photo critic)

Organizer: Guardian Garden