"Immigration is a privilege. Refugees flee persecution to a foreign haven. Workers, skilled and unskilled, move abroad for better - or simply different - experiences and opportunities. Becoming an expatriate can be both a personal choice - as well as an adventure. Only visas and their ilk spoil the sense of fun."
This is how Gary McLeod introduces his photograph exhibition of portraits of foreign English teachers in Japan that was showing at Zuishoji Art Projects in Shirokanedai between 17 & 23 September.
McLeod is a young photographer and researcher. His doctoral research is on the H.M.S. Challenger, a British ship that made a voyage of scientific research, visiting every continent in the world between 1872 and 1876 with a team of experts on board from a wide range of fields. One of the most memorable results of the voyage for those back in Britain at the time was the collection of photographs taken of "natives" from everywhere the ship had landed, including those of Japan.
In "Privilege," McLeod has also taken "natives" as his subjects: English "native speakers" in Japan. More than that, he has consciously incorporated the technology of his period of research into the project by using a Dallmeyer lens from the 19th century, made in England, on the digital camera he used. This had the effect of drastically reducing the scope of the photos he was able to take, meaning he had to shoot the numerous small portions of the subject that the lens allowed him, and then put the sections together using software, to produce the distinctive mosaic-style "Privilege" result.
The squares of different tone had the effect of training the eye on the various parts of the subject that they overlapped, block by block. I was particularly fascinated by how look in the eye, in particular, of each subject, was accentuated by the technique, almost eerily, to the point of recreating, perhaps, the sense of wonder that the nineteenth century still felt for photography.
Gary McLeod's website is at http://www.garymcleod.co.uk/