- 3331 Arts Chiyoda / Tokyo
A man in military uniform and a girl in a school uniform are lying next to one another during World War II, ca. 1943. She is leaning on her elbows, holding a gun, while he teaches her how to shoot. The military uniform and puttee, suggestive of wartime, and the gun’s straightly extended muzzle all make the folded pleats of her skirt and the figure of her soft body stand out.
Even though she’s holding a gun, the way they are lying together with their backs turned to us is very vulnerable, as if they didn’t notice the gaze of the photographer. At a glance there appears to be an intimate connection between them. Are they doing target practice, or just pretending to do target practice as an excuse to get close to one another? The fact that she’s wearing a school uniform suggests the latter. If the girl in the picture wasn’t holding a gun, it would be safe to say they look like lovers. However the gun she is holding is an infantry gun which at the time was being mass produced as a weapon for the Japanese Army and used for actual combat. Furthermore the person standing behind them wearing a puttee is watching them, perhaps even standing guard over them. The shadow of his boot intersects with the girl’s feet.
Of course no matter how much you are stimulated to imagine their relationship and situation, not to mention their future together, you can only speculate. That information is simply not recorded in the picture. What remains is that moment as captured by the photographer as the shadow of the light which poured into the lens. There remains the reality of them lying there in their military and school uniforms holding a gun. Within that photograph they will forever remained nestled together holding a gun. That moment will be stretched into eternity.
A photograph captures the subject for the one instant when the shutter is open, that instant in which the photographer focuses the lens, looks through the viewfinder, and presses the shutter button. That moment’s event recorded by the photograph is now in flux just like the present. A photograph is the solid proof that this moment really happened.
In this piece I imagined what kind of conversation the girl in school uniform and the soldier in military uniform were having at the time, and produced footage of the photograph with subtitles attached.
The work of providing a photo with subtitles can stretch out that moment’s recorded event and return it to its place within time. It can also be an attempt to return that event to the flow of time which exists in unbroken continuity with the present. Even if this work is somewhat arbitrary and speculative, it allows me to imagine the words of their conversation which remain frozen in this picture. By letting them speak, we approach what might have been happening at that time, what they might have been thinking, and also what these pictures might forebode for the future.