Takashi Arai

  Takashi Arai (b. 1978, Kawasaki, Japan) does not see daguerreotype as a nostalgic reproduction of a classical method; instead, he has made it his own personal medium, finding it a reliable device for storing memory that is far better for recording and transmitting interactions with his subjects than modern photography.

Interested in nuclear issues,Arai has used the daguerreotype technique to create individual records—micro-monuments—of his encounters with surviving crew members, and the salvaged hull, of the fallout-contaminated Daigo Fukuryūmaru fishing boat, records that touch upon the fragmented reality of events in the past. This project led him to photograph the deeply interconnected subjects of Fukushima, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. Since 1 January 2011, Arai has been taking one 6x6 D-type a day, creating the Daily D-type Project.

'Beginning in 2002, Arai taught himself everything he could about daguerreotypes. He found the original manuals (translated from French into English and then Japanese) written by Louis Daguerre. Fascinated by the concepts, he began to assemble all the materials necessary to produce actual plates himself. Unfortunately the outdated manual required some contemporary updates and Arai found help in other practitioners sharing advice, and a lot of experimentation.
Arai hand-makes his silver plates. To be precise, the plates themselves come from a factory, but Arai fastidiously and personally polishes each one until it looks just right. Ever attentive to detail, a single, small plate takes a good hour to produce. But all of this is part of Arai’s artistic routine. Indeed, the reflective polish of the daguerreotype plate is essential to its magic. Affectionately dubbed, “the magic mirror,” a well-made plate has the unique quality of implicating the viewer in the frame. When standing in front of Arai’s work, one’s face becomes visible on the reflective surface of the image. This mirroring makes the viewer feel completely involved within the worlds depicted.
The artist's involvement can be felt in each plate’s subtle imperfections. From the highly variable exposure times (several seconds to 15 minutes) to the physical markings on the plates themselves, each image stands as a hand-crafted, singular work of art.
This feeling of materiality has other consequences. For example, when viewers first saw Arai’s series of daguerreotypes made around Fukushima, they began to invent reasons for the imperfections visible on the plate. Surely, they said, it was radiation that gave his plates their unearthly blue glow. Perhaps, they thought, it was the fallout that was leaving such tactile traces behind?
According to Arai, nothing could be further from the truth. The physical imperfections are a consequence of Arai’s commitment to making things by hand. And the blue glow is an incidental chemical reaction, common to daguerreotype plates the world over. But these viewer projections are no accident: they speak to the way in which these ghostly silver plates invite us to become enmeshed in the worlds that they depict.'

Takashi Arai’s work has appeared in numerous exhibitions, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Mori Art Museum, the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, among other international venues. In 2016, he received the 41st Kimura Ihei Award for his first monograph “MONUMENTS” (PGI, 2015). Arai is also the winner of Source-Cord Prize, UK, in 2014. His works are held in many major public collections including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, and Musée Guimet.
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