Zen Foto Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of Shinya Arimoto’s ‘Tokyo Circulation’, to be held from 2nd July to 3rd August. This marks Arimoto’s first solo exhibition at Zen Foto Gallery, presenting approximately 50 monochrome photographs from ‘Ariphoto’ that the photographer has been working on since 2006.

His keen interest in human beings and their living environment has run through his photography since the beginning. Wandering the streets of ever-transforming cities, he perceived a somewhat primitive form of life, and began to seek to capture it. In the earliest days, taking pictures of the Tibetan people and landscape was central to his photography. However, having felt that ‘photographers are meant to shoot the ground beneath their feet’, he moved to Tokyo. Since 2006, he has continued to photograph the city of Tokyo, which grew into the ‘Ariphoto’ series.

Aiming at capturing what might be called the ‘city image’ composed of a variety of elements of the city, ranging from the liner-shaped architectural elements to the residents or passengers, his curiosity has centred upon Shinjuku, the country’s biggest and most crowded terminus, as well as a relatively new centre of the capital, Tokyo. He then began to take pictures of its everyday scenes. Rather than representing the stereotypical image of Shinjuku, such as ‘sex town’ or ‘mafia-run town’ attributed to Kabuki-cho, he has tried to create a multifaceted portrait of Tokyo, producing abundant city images that contain every possible element, from architectures to people, which slip through our categorization. Another notable characteristic of the work of Arimoto is the ‘selection’ process. The series has been periodically reviewed and reorganized by the photographer himself, and the selected works were exhibited at his Totem Pole Gallery several times each year. Through this cycle, he has repeatedly reexamined not only his works, but also his artistic development, attitude and stance of taking photography, as well as the theme; human beings and their living environment in an endless process of transformation.

The project is still going on and the series continues to expand. This exhibition, curated under the title ‘Tokyo Circulation’ presents this ever-growing body of work in a new light; Tokyo as a massive ecological system. A compilation of selected works from the series under the same title will be published to accompany the exhibition.

While it’s been more than twenty years since moving to Tokyo, I’ve never grown tired of how, day by day, the city fluctuates and grows. But on the other hand, it has become hard to see the embodiment of our true humanity - perhaps this loss is a consequence of our unchecked modern urban proliferation.

Years ago, while I was photographing and living among nomads in Tibet I was struck by the way in which they live and coexist powerfully with the earth. I honed this feeling through making portraits of the people I encountered. Compared with my experiences there I felt that, as photographic subjects, through the convenience of modern life the citizens of Tokyo lacked something that those in Tibet naturally possessed.

But was this really so?

Making an effort to observe Tokyo well, one should be able to discover those living strongly with the same radiance of human nature coexisting within the city. This belief led me to begin a daily attempt to seek out with my camera those who exist and thrive within their natural, yet urban, habitat.

Indeed, ten years have passed and in my eyes the dense sprawl of Tokyo is an ecosystem with magnificent circulation. 

ーShinya Arimoto

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Artist Profile


Born in Osaka, 1971, Arimoto currently lives and works in Tokyo, Japan. Graduated from Visual Arts Osaka in 1994, Arimoto received the 35th Taiyo Award in 1998 with his work “Portrait of Tibet”. In 2008, he founded the Totem Pole Photo Gallery. Arimoto published “Tokyo Circulation” with Zen Foto Gallery in 2016 and won the 26th Tadahiko Hayashi Award as well as the Photographic Society of Japan’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017. His other publications include “ariphoto selection” (No. 1-10, Totem Pole Photo Gallery) and “TIBET” (Zen Foto Gallery, 2019). Actively presenting his work in and out of Japan, he held a solo show at Le Plac'Art Photo, Paris in 2017 and participated in the group exhibition “Am Rand der Gesellschaft. Barlach – Springer – Arimoto” at Museum Bautzen, Germany in 2019.

Publications & Prints