Empowering KYOTOGRAPHIE: Beauty Captured by 1 French Photographer

International Photography Festival KYOTOGRAPHIE 2024

“SOURCE”. The international photography festival “KYOTOGRAPHIE 2024” will be held in Kyoto from April 13th to May 12th, 2024, with this word, which means the beginning, as the theme.

“KYOTOGRAPHIE” was launched in 2011 by photographer Lucille Raybose and lighting artist Yusuke Nakanishi in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Each year, KYOTOGRAPHIE invites artists from Japan and abroad around one theme, and creates exhibitions through the medium of “photography.” It has reflected modern society and its background.

This year’s theme, the 12th, is “SOURCE,” meaning the origin of everything. The creation of life and the activities of creation by life… What kind of works and messages will artists from around the world present in response to this theme? During the period, 13 exhibitions will be held at 12 venues in Kyoto.

Empowering KYOTOGRAPHIE: Beauty Captured by 1 French Photographer

One of them is “Seed Stories” by French photographer Thierry Hardouin. He is also the co-founder of the photographer group Tendance Floue, and continues to take portraits of “seeds” that travel across cultures and eras, exploring the diverse charms hidden in their small worlds.

The photographs, which have a vividness that cannot be seen with the naked eye, are set in the Ninomaru Palace kitchen and palace of Nijo Castle, which is an important cultural property, and feature scenographer Shinichiro Ogata (SIMPLICITY) and curator Nathalie Chapuis (Atelier EXB). will be exhibited.

Prior to the opening, we spoke to Thierry Hardouin about the history of the exhibition and the thoughts behind his works.

A story born from an encounter

──This is your first exhibition in Japan. What impressions do you have of Kyoto?

Empowering KYOTOGRAPHIE: Beauty Captured by 1 French Photographer

I have only visited Kyoto once before. Eight years ago, I participated in an exhibition called “KOREA ON/OFF” in Busan, South Korea, and since it was only a few hours from Busan to Osaka (Kansai International Airport), I decided to stay in Kyoto for just a few days. I made it.

I’ve only been to Kyoto in Japan, so I don’t know much about other cities, but I thought it was a nice, quiet and calming city that was different from the big cities. I also like the Philosopher’s Path, temples, and being able to feel nature in the city.

I’m very happy to be able to exhibit this time in Kyoto, especially at the prestigious venue of Nijo Castle, and I’m also honored that the scenographer is Shinichiro Ogata. I will be staying in Japan during the exhibition period and will spend a few days visiting Naoshima and Teshima.

──How did you receive the offer for KYOTOGRAPHIE? 

Empowering KYOTOGRAPHIE: Beauty Captured by 1 French Photographer

I accepted this offer because of my relationship with Xavier Barrard, an art director and photo editor who exhibited “Mars: The Unknown Surface” at the 2nd KYOTOGRAPHIE (2014). I met him in 2015. Before that, I had held many exhibitions of seed portraits in France, and it was through that encounter that I was able to publish Seed Stories. It was a book that I and everyone around me had been waiting for for a long time. 

──So, how did you meet Shinichiro Ogata, who serves as the scenographer?

I also connected with Mr. Ogata through Mr. Baral. We have been talking about this project since November 2023, and we have spoken three or four times via ZOOM, but yesterday (late March of this year) was actually the first time we met in person.

As for Mr. Ogata, I knew of the Paris space he produced “OGATA Paris” four years ago, and I think we were both professionals and close to each other.

Hidden diversity and natural beauty

──You keep photographing seeds, what was the reason for that?

Empowering KYOTOGRAPHIE: Beauty Captured by 1 French Photographer

Originally, I became interested in seeds from a political perspective, and began my pursuit in 2009. French farmers are prohibited from growing seeds from home-saved seeds and must buy hybrids listed in official catalogs each year. Informal farmers, on the other hand, used seeds that were not listed in official catalogues.

There are two types of seeds: legal seeds and illegal seeds. So, I was wondering how carrot seeds are classified, but seeds are really small, so you can’t see them with the naked eye when you hold them in your hand. So I started taking pictures of it. I use an Olympus camera equipped with a microscope, and I photograph carrots at about 30x, kidney beans at 15x, and vanilla at 60x.

──Have you noticed any changes in yourself as you continue to face seeds?

 I discovered this when I photographed carrot seeds. The beauty of seeds. Until then, I had been interested in seeds from a legal perspective, but as I learned of the diverse beauty that varies by color, shape, and type, my interest shifted to pursuing that. I’m a photographer, not a scientist. I believe that showcasing the beauty of nature and taking photographs is one way to protect nature.

Universal and essential themes that we embrace while traveling

Empowering KYOTOGRAPHIE: Beauty Captured by 1 French Photographer

──What do you think of this year’s KYOROGRAPHIE theme, “SOURCE”?

“SOURCE” is my concept itself. Seeds have been around since before humans, and people have been collecting seeds and getting vitamins and protein to survive since the Stone Age. It is truly our origin.

Seeds are universal and essential. Plus, it’s something that travels across borders. On the other hand, the distribution of crops varies from region to region, such as rice in Asia, wheat in the Mediterranean, and corn in America, and can be said to represent the unique culture of each region. In French, it is also called “Origine”, and seeds are the source, the very roots of ourselves.

I felt that this time had come a long time ago, as it perfectly overlaps with the theme of my work, “SEED.”

──What kind of exhibition will it actually be like?

This time, for the first time, we will be exhibiting works using not only French seeds but also Kyoto seeds. In January of this year, seeds collected at a farm in Kyoto were sent to France, from which we selected and photographed. Seeds of radish, shiso, rice, indigo, etc.

Empowering KYOTOGRAPHIE: Beauty Captured by 1 French Photographer

The exhibition at Nijo Castle will be directed by Mr. Ogata. If I talk too much about it, it will be a spoiler, but just a little. The exhibit begins with a tiny, real seed, and as you move through the room, photographs of seeds magnified dozens of times appear. Based on my photography experience, the structure is designed to give visitors the same feeling as I do. I can’t wait to share the great journey of seeds with you.

Thierry Ardouin ◎Photographer born in 1961 in Saint-Ouin, France. In 1991 he co-founded the photographer collective Tendance Floue. His work focuses on the connection between humans and their environment. In 2022, his book “Seed Stories” (Atelier EXB) will be published.


KYOTGRAPHIE Kyoto International Photo Festival

Thierry Hardouin “Seed Stories”
Presented by Van Cleef & Arpels In collaboration with Atelier EXB

Venue: Nijo Castle Ninomaru Palace Kitchen/Goshojo (541 Nijo Castle-cho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto City)
Date: April 13th – May 12th 9:30-17:00 (last entry 16:30) *Entry to Nijo Castle is until 16:00
Fees: Adults 1200 yen / Students 1000 yen *Separate entrance fee to Nijo Castle (800 yen) )Is necessary


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