Keijiro Kai’s photobook “Clothed in Sunny Finery” presents spectacular photographs of traditional Japanese festivals in which crowds of naked men clash with each other.
Shot at four different festivals, Kai capture the ordeal, the frenzy and the wild chaos of these events from within. His photographs – immediate and raw compositions of flesh and skin – take us up close to the participants. The goal of these festivals is to compete, either individually or in teams, for tokens of good fortune. In Kai’s photographs, these festivals are transformed into fights against fate and nature itself. And despite the competitive background, there is a sense of community and togetherness within the naked exhaustion and roaring chaos.
“Clothed in Sunny Finery” includes essays by Akiyoshi Taniguchi and Chihiro Minato as well as an afterword by the artist (all texts included in Japanese and English).
“If we think about it, there is nothing more terrifying than being naked in the dark. Ot’s even more so if it’s in the middle of winter. One gets goosebumps and cannot stop shivering. The only way to be free from that anxiety and fear is to gather with people who are under the same circumstances and become one with them. Is there also a reversal of the fear of being touched in the core of a naked group of people? …
What the photographer encounters in the depths of darkness is the image of an ancient desire within us that has long been waiting for the moment of liberation. It is the desire of the skin—which has been waiting deep down inside—and the purest form of prayer in human beings.”
― from Chihiro Minato’s essay “Towards the Depths of Darkness”
Born in Fukuoka, 1974. Kai graduated from Tokyo College of Photography in 2002. His works take the viewer into the crowds of traditional fighting or sporting rituals all around the world that predate our modern concept of “sport”. By taking a close-up look at human interaction in these traditional settings, Kai’s photographs offer us an insight into the very essence of human life. He participated in group exhibitions at the Daegu Photo Biennale (South Korea, 2016), Taipei Photo (Taiwan, 2018), and the Noorderlicht International Photography Festival (Nederlands, 2019), and has held numerous solo exhibitions in Japan. His photobook publications include ”Shrove Tuesday” (Totem Pole Photo Gallery, 2013), “Wounded Bears” (Totem Pole Photo Gallery, 2016), and “Down to the Bone" (Shinjuku Shobo, 2020). He won the 28th Society of Photography Award for “Wounded Bears” and “Down to the Bone” in 2016; the 20th Sagamihara photography Award for his book “Down to the Bone” in 2020; and the 45th Nobuo Ina Award for his exhibition “Down to the Bone” at Nikon Salon in 2021.