CNN Photos

Assembly: The collective identity

Girls. Many of them, backs turned, matching attire, seemingly identical by physical appearance. They are seen as a cohesive unit, like a pack of crayons. It’s all or none, not for individual sale.

Normally, Osamu Yokonami’s photography focuses on close-up portraiture detailing one subject. But over the past two years, he has traded the singular for the plural, photographing that which erases the individual: what the Japanese call “shuudan,” read: “the group.” “Each person has their own personality,” he said, “but I wanted to portray the girls in a group to communicate the power and beauty of collectiveness.”

The girls are all anonymous. No faces are shown, no names displayed. In almost surreal, cinematic landscapes, these girls’ actions in unison illustrate a homogenous personality, perhaps pointing to the concept of interconnectedness. In this gallery appropriately titled “Assembly,” Yokonami creates a certain metaphysical synergy, stripping the identity of the girls by dressing them in matching outfits. Shooting from a far depth of field, the existence of each girl disappears, replaced instead with a captivating whole that speaks louder than the sum of its parts.

The Tokyo-based photographer selected the girls from junior high schools and high schools across four prefectures in Japan. He gave them free will to run around and play as he stood at a distance, waiting to capture “something interesting, something unexpected,” he said. While the motions and actions of the girls were largely unscripted, Yokonami was intentional in choosing the beautiful landscapes they traipsed across. The crisp and clean neutral colored backdrops of beaches, forests and fields over various seasons force the viewer to focus mainly on the girls. By photographing in rather desolate, off-the-beaten path locations, Yokonami intends to draw the eye’s attention to the strength and beauty of the combined entity.

In addition to portraying uniqueness through collectivity, Yokonami said the core meaning of the gallery lies in the idea of Wabi Sabi, which focuses on unconventional, imperfect beauty. The “Assembly” was inspired by his “100 Children” project, comprised of 100 individual portraits of kids. It was only when he amalgamated the photos that he realized the impact and expressiveness of the whole.   –Michelle Cohan, CNN