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2015年 菊田樹子 「『何故、我々は存在すのか?』———その答えを解き明かすために生まれた風景」、
写真が生まれたその訳を Vol.1、『PHat PHOTO 2015 / Vol.85』

Why Photography Was Born Vol.1 Satoru Yoshioka
"Why do we exist?" - Landscapes were born to reveal the answer to this proposition.
Text by Juko Kikuta

Since the mid-19th century, it has been part of the photographer's role to bring back landscapes never seen. Felice Beato's Japan must have been more than exoticism; Ansel Adams' Yosemite Valley revealed the majesty and sacredness of nature; Michio Hoshino's Alaska stirred the admiration of many Japanese. Satoru Yoshioka is one of these photographers. However, the destination of his camera is not a remote area where primitive life and nature, but a scientific research facility lined with cutting-edge experimental equipment.

Since 2006, he has traveled the world and photographed accelerator facilities: the outskirts of Geneva, California, New York, Chicago, Tsukuba, Tokai-mura, Kamioka, and so on. Day and night, these facilities are conducting experiments to accelerate and smash microscopic particles to near the speed of light. Although in a world of science that many people are not familiar with, he also did not have a keen interest in science. After graduating from high school in his hometown of Kochi, Japan, he went to study at a college in the suburbs of San Diego. He studied photography, and after graduating from college, Yoshioka obtained a green card as a photographer and continued to work in the United States.

In 2005, his friend was an engineer at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (now SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory) in California. Yoshioka was curious about the place and decided to visit him. I was so excited. I had never seen such an enormous array of equipment and devices. The more I looked, the more I wanted to photograph. Of course, not easy to get authorization to photograph a facility controlled by national-level security, even if you have friends there. Yoshioka persuaded them enthusiastically, and in the end, they trusted him enough to tell him that he could take pictures freely. However, photographing inside a laboratory requires speed. "The researchers were eager to talk about their research, so I would take pictures while listening to them. "Researchers are eager to talk about their research, so I often take pictures as I go along," he says. He uses a digital single-lens reflex camera with a light lens for mobility and rarely uses a tripod.

Witnessing such high-energy physics research, Yoshioka learned that the ultimate subject behind the complex mathematical formulas and theories is to solve the question, "Why do we exist? Before photographing the accelerator, Yoshioka visited Los Alamos, famous for the Manhattan Project, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He carefully sees that science is not an all-powerful divine being nor a monster that produces tremendous "negativity. I have no intention of praising science out of hand," he said. I am not at all trying to glorify science, but I do not know if we will ever be able to get an answer to the question, "Why do we exist? I felt a sense of hope that the research facilities are desperately trying to solve the question.

Yoshioka's photographs do not pursue the beauty of factory architecture or machines, as in "Factory Moe," nor criticize civilized society and humans eroding nature through modern landscapes overflowing with objects. Yoshioka finds "beauty" in "new landscapes" that only to reveal the answer to the question "Why do we exist?". He brings back "unknown landscapes. He maintains a "neutral gaze." He records accurately using the technology of the camera. He is particular about prints. While showing respect and empathy for the predecessors of landscape photography and the history of photography, Yoshioka sees the direction of "hope for the future.

In 2007, Yoshioka moved to Kochi, Japan, where he began working on a new project last year.
I was surprised to hear about the subject matter that attracted his interest while photographing the accelerator and conversing with various scientists. Now, with the help of the Neuroscience Research Unit at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST), he is trying to capture images from inside the brains of laboratory mice with a camera. "When I showed the brain images I had taken as a test to one of the researchers, he said, 'It looks like the early universe.' The images of the universe he showed me looked remarkably similar to mine." From this surprising fact, Yoshioka says, "Without the universe, we would not exist. In other words, we are part of the universe. Therefore, it is not surprising that the universe exists within us. The brain has an important role in emotions, thoughts, information transmission, and life support, but it has many mysteries. What kind of "new scenery" will Yoshioka bring back from this unknown world?

Satoru Yoshioka was born in 1963 and graduated from Palomar College of Photography in California, the U.S.A. 1996. In 2007 he moved from the United States to Kochi City, Kochi Prefecture, Japan. Yoshioka has held solo exhibitions in Japan and abroad and has participated in numerous group exhibitions and art fairs. In 2014, he exhibited at Shinjuku Nikon Salon (Tokyo), Radium-Rögenwerke(Tokyo), Zuiun-an (Kyoto), and others.