Dear Old Days — Ryoji Akiyama Solo Exhibition

17 July - 19 September 2021 Xiamen

Dear Old Days Exhibition Preface


Text/Li Zijian


From a certain perspective, memory constitutes our spiritual world. We shape ourselves by constantly regaining our memories and renewing our cognition of the world. Then the childhood memories are the starting point of our mentality.


In this exhibition, Three Shadows Xiamen Photography Art Centre and SEISODO jointly present the classic photographic work "Dear Old Days" by artist Ryoji Akiyama. From 1981 to 1982, he came to China five times and visited Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Harbin, Guilin, Hohhot, Urumqi and other cities, and even went to Hainan Island with the help of the Chinese Photographers Association for that island was not open to foreigners at the time. During this period, a total of about 700 rolls of film and 8,000 color photos were taken, and 116 of them were selected in the photo book published in 1983. This book was republished in 2019 and named “Dear Old Days” . The photos in this exhibition are from this book and two other volumes compiled and published in recent years: “Dear Old Days Ⅱ” and “Dear Old Days Ⅲ”.


Watching these color photos recorded by Rolleiflex and Sakura Color II film, it seems that our memories or reveries of that era have come alive with these brilliant and vivid colors. These photos have become the bridge between the present we exist and the old world. Everything in these photos is constantly repeating itself, and the photos are constantly interacting and connecting with each other to construct a context independent of reality. From this perspective, photography is an art about "disappearance". What we look for and expect in those photos is a world in which we are no longer there. As Agamben mentioned in "The Nymph": "Images are not inert and static, but have a special kind of life that has passed away."


Ryoji Akiyama shows us a China in the 1980s that always stays in photos, a "childhood" of the current society. Only through our gaze and thinking, this 80s that was sealed in the image can reappear in our minds. Whether we have experienced that period of history or not, we can always find our own memories in it.


We may be astonished to find that nothing will disappear completely, anything that disappears will leave a trace. The world of yesterday still affects our present in a covert and powerful way. Nostalgia is not only about the past, but also about our understanding of the present and the future.


About the Artist


Born in Tokyo in 1942. His father Seiji Akiyama is also a photographer. After graduating from the Department of Literature at Waseda University, he worked for the Associated Press and the Asahi Shimbun Photography Department before becoming a freelance photographer. He has been actively reporting on issues such as famine in India and depopulation on remote islands from the perspective of a photojournalist. Later, he participated in an international exhibition 「New Japanese Photography」 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York with Masahisa Fukase and Daido Moriyama, among others. He photographed people's lives with a 6 x 6 dual-lens Rollei reflex camera. He has created a unique worldview by presenting works that unflinchingly capture his subjects from the “perspective of a traveler” in places such as New York, Indonesia and China. His works have been collected by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, Miyagi Museum of Art, Kure Municipal Museum of Art, Kawasaki City Museum, and Aomori Museum of Art. Photo books:《Tsugaru: Ryōji-sensei gyōjōki 》(TSUGARU Shobou),《New York tsūshin》(Bokusuisha),《Narakawa-mura》(Asahi-shinbunsha),《Nara》(Yujin Kobou) and so on. Translation of a book《American Century 1900-1910》(Seibu Time), Essay:《Sensu no kemuri》(Housoukai).