Gérard Touren, Ordinary People in Tokyo Streets, Sway Gallery, exhibition review: ‘solitary fragments’

Stillness: detail from Gérard Touren's Shinjuku Station. Photograph courtesy the artist

Stillness: detail from Gérard Touren’s Shinjuku Station. Photograph courtesy the artist

Wandering foreign streets, poking alien cultures is a pastime at once familiar and confusing to most of us.

Camera in hand, we seek to capture something, never really sure of the value of what we’ve sifted from the mass of otherness around us. French photographer Gérard Touren takes on this challenge with alacrity in the streets of Tokyo.

The prosaically titled exhibition Ordinary People in Tokyo Streets is made up of pictures – mostly black and white but a few in colour – taken between March 2015 and December 2017. The photos are framed without glass to accentuate their richness and depth.

Amid the chaos of Japanese streets, cafés and public transport, Touren has sought the ‘solitary fragment’ in each of the Tokyoites he photographs. Some of the images are shot though glass or water; others are at odd angles; most give evidence of the odd ‘kink in the day’ he claims to seek in his photographs.

Incongruities abound: an austere gentleman cycling while holding an umbrella; a suited man with an advertising sign stifling a giggle; a busy street reflected in a puddle, displayed upside down.

But beyond the kinks and oddities, what many of these images have in common is a self-absorbed stillness of the subjects that is at odds with their surroundings. Touren has captured moments of musing, staring, glancing, pondering – inward-looking points of reflection in the hubbub of urban life. It’s Tokyo, but it could be anywhere.

Ordinary People in Tokyo Streets is on show at the Sway Gallery (70-72 Old Street, EC1V 9AN) until 28 March

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