Artist research – Tomoko Sawada

over four years, Sawada took passport style pictures of herself in a public photo booth outside the Kobe subway station. Using makeup and costume she repeatedly changed her identities. She started making this series after recognising that she could alter her appearance easily but not her personality.An ID photo proves the identity of the existence of a person  in the picture. She had said ‘anyone in these ID photos could be me’

The work by Sawada explores many contradicted ideas through self created characters, when she dresses up in costume she shows the essence of ‘real’ people. Her series ID400, OMIAI and school days all have herself presented as different identities. She explores Japanese stereotypes with a humorous effect.

Sawada uses studio photographers, by separating herself slightly from the photography she shows herself being a performer; very similar to the works I have researched within creating identities. Samuel Fosso, Cindy SHerman and Lee all show performance when they recreate their identities. I see this as going hand in hand when becoming someone else, you almost play up to the roles.

In Id400 she dresses up in 400 different disguises, her photographs are presented in passport photos in black and white.She didn’t alter the images digitally at all, they were all natural and focused on the use of hair and makeup.

She shows that even though her appearance is changing And different identities are formed she still remains the same person.

In her images Sawada doesn’t present any expression keeping her expressions neutral. This is so the viewers don’t get distracted by the expression. Usually people don’t smile in ID photos this is something I took on with my own ID photographs, showing neutral expression following the typical theme.

She says if there is no expression I can better present another person who is truly different, by relying on wigs and makeup etc.She usually rents the clothes used or borrows them from friends and family to create her 400 identities.

Sawada had another collection called ‘costume’ where she presented people from various occupations – a supermarket employee, a police officer etc.

This series was about Sawadas experience as an aspiring artist and how people look at you and see you. She noticed that people’s attitude towards another person changes greatly according to their occupation. She set out to explore this powerful interchange between status, identity and work as symbolised by different uniforms.

Her work explores the way assumptions about personality are largely driven by Japanese cultural responses to gender, job occupation and other socio cultural stereotypes. In her series OMAI in 2002 her series references the traditional photo book of a young woman used by her family members for an arranged marriage. Sawada was photographed in a professional photography studio.

I really enjoy the concept behind Sawadas work and how the aesthetics showing change of appearance but all being the same person clearly shows a link to her ideas that you can’t put characteristics to a person based on their appearance

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