Motohashi Seiichi: Sense of Place
February 7–July 5, 2016
Chernobyl Chechersk, Belarus 1992
Documentarian Motohashi Seiichi (1940–) has used the two modes of photography and film to document the lives of ordinary people since the 1960s. His work has received domestic and international acclaim, including the Domon Ken Award for his book Nadya’s Village and the grand prize at the St. Petersburg “Message to Man” Film Festival for “Alexei and the Spring.” Motohashi’s fields of observation have included coalmines, popular entertainment, the circus, a slaughterhouse, and a train station, where he has portrayed the rich diversity of human endeavor that forms the foundation of society. He has also published three books and directed two documentaries that focus on people who have continued to live in the vicinity of the Chernobyl power plant even after the nuclear accident. 2016 marks the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident, and Motohashi’s photographs of an irradiated homeland have taken on a new urgency for us, in the wake of Japan’s nuclear meltdowns after the March 11 tsunami.

The exhibition will trace the half-century journey of a photographer, featuring more than 200 of Motohashi’s images. The selection will include previously unreleased early photographs from his points of origin, along with a range of his representative work.

* Motohashi’s documentary films will also be screened during the period of the exhibition.

Motohashi Seiichi’s Major Series

The Coal Mine   (1964−)
The Coal Mine was awarded the Taiyo Prize in 1968. The series was begun as Motohashi’s thesis project at the Tokyo College of Photography, and for some years afterwards he traveled to coal-mining areas in Kyushu and Hokkaido to photograph daily life in the mine communities. Motohashi’s encounter with the nonfiction writer Ueno Eishin, who lived in the town of Chikuho in Kyushu, motivated him to devote himself fully to photography. As a result of the energy revolution of the 1960s, oil replaced coal as the primary source of fuel, and many coal mines were driven to closure.

Circus  (1976−) 
As Japanese cities were transformed at an unprecedented pace in the postwar era, Motohashi was strongly attracted to “the entertainers and stagehands who spun their lives and livelihoods in the space of a tent.” More than 30 circus troupes performed in Japan during the peak period, but one after another they went out of business, until only two troupes still perform today.

Ueno Station  (1980−)
This series captured “the last days of Ueno Station as a terminal” before the Shinkansen bullet train connection to Omiya opened in 1985. Historically, Ueno served as the entry point that linked Tokyo and northern Japan, a place where a wide range of people, including migrant laborers, came and went and spent time. The connection between each individual and the station was that of a “plaza,” where innumerable personal tales unfolded. The electronic schedule boards in use today were once operated by hand (plate).
Kurate, Fukuoka 1965
left: Sekine Circus, Numazu, Shizuoka 1976        right: Ueno Station, Tokyo 1981

Slaughterhouse   (1986−)
A documentary series on workers at a slaughterhouse in the Osaka area city of Matsubara. Photography began during the 1980s, when traditional methods of slaughtering and butchering animals were used. Meat processing has been largely mechanized at the slaughterhouse today, but much of the work was previously done by skilled craftsmen. Abattoir, the first book ever compiled in Japan to document work in a slaughterhouse, was published in 2011. Slaughterhouse work was historically the subject of discrimination, and it was rare for a camera to be allowed inside.

Performance East and West  (1972−)
This series was started to accompany essays on popular entertainment by the actor and folk-arts expert Ozawa Shoichi in Taiyo (The Sun) magazine. After 4 years, the series continued to appear in Ozawa’s self-published quarterly, Performance East and West. Cabaret performers, chindon’ya street musicians, vaudevillians, popular theater, Ise and Honkawa kagura dance, Kawachi song and farce, kamishibai storytelling, midget wrestling, Akita manzai comic performance… Many of these folk-style performing arts that maintained tradition and provided entertainment were transformed as lifestyles and forms of entertainments changed, and this series serves in part to document a disappearing popular culture.

Chernobyl  (1991−)
On April 26, 1986, an accident of unprecedented scale happened at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in a region of the former Soviet Union (now Ukraine). Five years later in 1991, at the invitation of the Japan Chernobyl Foundation, Motohashi traveled there to photograph the power plant and the surrounding area. He has since returned to the area more than 30 times to document the lives of villagers who have chosen to remain in their homes in a contaminated zone of Belarus. He has published three books—Infinite Embrace, Nadya’s Village, and Alexei and the Spring—and directed two films, “Nadya’s Village” and “Alexei and the Spring.”

Additional Series on Exhibit
•Early work: Ofuyu (1963-), including previously unexhibited photographs
•Early work: Yoron (1964–), a previously unexhibited series
•Recent work: Arayashiki (2011–)

Matsubara, Osaka 1986
Naniwa Sannosuke Troupe, Kobe, Hyogo 1973
Dudichi Village, Belarus 1996

Photographer and film director Motohashi Seiichi was born in Tokyo in 1940. He graduated from Jiyu Gakuen high school in 1963 and from the Tokyo College of Photography in 1965. He was awarded the Taiyo Prize in 1968 for his series Coal Mines. In 1995, Infinite Embrace won the annual prize from the Photographic Society of Japan, as well as the Society of Photography Prize. In 1998, Nadya’s Village won the Domon Ken Award. Motohashi directed the documentary films “Nadya’s Village” (1997), “Alexei and the Spring” (2002), “If You Sing with Namii” (2006), and “A Thousand-Year Song of Baobab” (2009); he produced “The Village That Became Water,” “Holy Island,” and “Tale of a Butcher Shop.” In 2015, he released his most recent film, “Take Your Time—Arayashiki.” His solo exhibitions have included Motohashi Seiichi: Nadezhda—Hope at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography (2002), and Motohashi Seiichi Photography and Film Exhibition: Nadezhda—Hope at the Matsumoto City Museum of Art (2006). His books include Nadya’s Village (Heibonsha, 1998), Alexei and the Spring (Shogakukan, 2002), Abattoir (Heibonsha, 2011), Ueno Station Intervals (new edition, Heibonsha, 2012), Circus Time (new edition, Kawade Shobo Shinsha, 2013), and Coal Mines (new edition, Kaichosha, 2015).


• Discussion with Photographer Motohashi Seiichi
Guest: Sekino Yoshiharu (Adventurer, physician, professor of anthropology at Musashino Art University)
Date/Time: February 14 (Sun) 2:30–4:00p.m.
Place: Clematis no Oka Hall (near the museum)
Free (exhibition ticket required for entry)
Limited to 150. Please register in advance by calling 055-989-8780.

• Gallery Talks by the Photographer
Date/Time: March 27 (Sun), May 15 (Sun), 11:15a.m. and 2:15p.m (approx. 45 min.)
Free (exhibition ticket required for entry)
No registration required (gather at the museum entrance counter)

• Gallery Talks by the Curator
Date/Time: February 28 (Sun), April 24 (Sun), June 26 (Sun), 2:15p.m. (approx. 30 min.)
Free (exhibition ticket required for entry)
No registration required (gather at the museum entrance counter)

• Screenings of Motohashi Seiichi’s Films
Dates (tentative): April 3 (Sun), May 15 (Sun), June 12 (Sun)
Screenings will be held during the exhibition period. Details will be posted on the museum Web site (

Sekine Yoshiharu
Chernobyl Borisovich village, Belarus 1996

Motohashi Seiichi: Sense of Place
Motohashi Seiichi: Infinite Embrace
Related Publications
Motohashi Seiichi: Sense of Place will be published by Izu Photo Museum during the exhibition period (distributed by Nohara). Details will be posted on the museum Web site (

• A new edition of Motohashi Seiichi’s Infinite Embrace April 26, will be published.

All Japanese names in this press release appear in Japanese style (i.e., family name followed by given name).