Photography as the language of reflection

Peninsula Premier Admin

CARMEL — It wasn’t until photographer Jerry Takigawa was grown that he found pictures of his family in World War II internment camps, photographs tucked into a box in the garage, where his mother had stowed them. She had passed away by then, yet even in her absence, all the stories he’d heard about “camps” when he was a child, safely apart from their political context, began to make sense.

“I thought of how parents pass on ideas they don’t actually talk about to their kids,” Takigawa said. “The idea of social justice or speaking up for something that is wrong was passed on to me, but not consciously. Because they wanted me to love America, to be American, they never realized they were instilling the idea of social fairness in me.”

In what became a pivotal moment for Takigawa, a reclaiming of his identity as Japanese American, he used the discovered photographs to develop his award-winning project, “Balancing Cultures,” one of four series presented in “Jerry Takigawa: Liminal Language, 1980-2020,” a 40-year retrospective exhibition which opened Saturday at the Center for Photographic Art in Carmel and runs through Feb. 14.

Artist Jerry Takigawa layers colored elements onto black-and-white photographs that create a narrative context to the image. (Courtesy of Jerry Takigawa)

“There was work before what’s being shown, and there will be work after,” he said. “We had to narrow the exhibition to four primary bodies of work, expressed in the visual language I was creating during that time. You don’t think you are creating continuity until 40 years have passed. Then you look back and see how one thing led to another.”

“Liminal” refers to the intermediate place between two states, conditions or regions. In each of Takigawa’s four bodies of work — “Kimono Series,” “Landscapes of Presence,” “False Food” and “Balancing Cultures” — he explores the space in between an idea and its understanding, creating a moment of reflection. “Language” refers to using photography as his voice to express the messages and ideas that emerge from his explorations.

In “Balancing Cultures,” Takigawa layers colored elements onto black-and-white photographs that create a narrative context to the image. In “Kimono Series,” he works in color, introducing the vivid kimono fabrics into the landscape. “Landscapes of Presence” is a series of black-and-white photographs layered with artifacts and images that explore both contradiction and constancy in the Japanese culture.

And “False Food” grew out of a documentary the Monterey Bay Aquarium presented, showing a jar of plastic pieces found in the belly of an albatross, that likely had starved to death.

“Takigawa created layered photographs that pair the plastic bits with antique Japanese art reproductions, calligraphy, preexisting photographs, and more,” wrote exhibition curator Helaine Glick. “’False Food’ underscores a plastic epidemic that is universally destructive and, tragically, human-generated. In a sense, his images are his offerings—to sorrow and maybe to hope.”

Cultivating creativity

Takigawa studied photography with legendary photographer Don Worth at San Francisco State University, yet graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with an emphasis on painting. Once he realized being a painter was not going to be immediately marketable, he returned to the Peninsula where, while attending Monterey High, he had done design work for a literary magazine, introducing him to the concept of doing artwork for reproduction. Through his own marketing firm, Takigawa Design, he has produced decades of award-winning graphic designs based on an alchemy of “innovation, creativity, and growth.”

Takigawa’s graphic design work has been recognized through numerous design competitions and awards, including Communication Arts, AIGA, Graphis, Summit International Creative Awards, Northern California Addy Awards, International Telly Awards, and the Independent Publisher Book Awards.

His photography work is included in the permanent collections of the Library of Congress, SFMOMA, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the Crocker Art Museum, the Oakland Museum of California, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and the Hiroshima Museum of Art.

Jerry Takigawa lives in Carmel Valley with his wife, artist Pamela Takigawa. A long-time member of the Center for Photographic Art, he is the founder of the Center’s PIE Labs—Photography + Ideas + Experience — an annual artistic development retreat for photographers and other artists.

“When Jerry sent in his proposal for the ‘Balancing Cultures’ series, I saw his ‘False Food’ exhibit and realized it would be really good to see a retrospective of the breadth of his work,” said Ann Jastrab, executive director of the Center for Photographic Art. “His work is fantastic and really important in its artistry and messaging. This is a great way to kick off the New Year with a solo exhibition by this legendary photographer.”

Contributed by local news sources

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