2013 Winners - Runner-up: Akihiko Miyoshi
Portland, Oregon–based artist Akihiko Miyoshi engages the possibilities of abstraction, a subject prevalent among photographers working today. Many such young photographers, among them Walead Beshty and Mariah Robertson, manipulate the photographic print’s material properties. By contrast, Miyoshi, who trained as a computer programmer, focuses his attention on the optical nature of photographic seeing. His manipulations often occur before the shutter is released, rather than in the darkroom afterward. As he phrases it, he is interested in “unpack[ing] the structural mechanics of photographic representation.”
For an artist exploring the intersection of art and technology, Miyoshi’s techniques are surprisingly analog. His series Abstract Photographs includes images of simple, often geometric patterns rendered with mirrors, paper, and tape. Red, green, blue, cyan, magenta, and yellow—the basic integers of both additive and subtractive light—appear as bits, fragments, lines, and circuits. He uses a large-format camera to document these compositions, and its ability to capture generous amounts of information means Miyoshi’s finished works, though presented as archival pigment prints, often also reveal dust, scratches, and other traces of these objects’ material qualities. The photographic nature of his project is reinforced by his use of selective focusing, and the camera’s struggle to accurately render the reflections bouncing off of his mirrored surfaces.
One of the stranger and more compelling aspects of the photographs in this series is Miyoshi’s own presence in the images; with his head draped in a dark-cloth hood, he lurks in the background of each picture. The works are at once abstract compositions and self-portraits. In this series, sophisticated questions about the nature of photographic seeing and the relationship between digital and analogue technologies are paired with basic, even primal, impulses. Such tensions are laid bare with care and precision in this thoughtfully realized series.
Holding a BA from Keio University, Tokyo; a MS from Carnegie Mellon, Pittsburgh; and an MFA in photography from the Rochester Institute of Technology, Akihiko Miyoshi currently teaches at Reed College in Portland, Oreg. Miyoshi has exhibited widely, and has or will participate in exhibitions at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, University of Oregon, Eugene; Shaw Gallery, Pendleton Center for the Arts, Oregon; Contact Photography Festival, Toronto; Photoville, New York; Silver Eye Center for Photography, Pittsburgh; Los Angeles Center for Digital Art, Los Angeles; Guggenheim Gallery at Chapman University, Orange, Calif. Awards given to Miyoshi include the 2006 Stillman Drake Research Grant at Reed College, the 2012 Hallie Ford Fellowship in the Visual Arts of the Ford Family Foundation, Fellowship 12 International Photography Competition, Silver Eye Center for Photography, and a 2011 Mellon Research Grant, Reed College.