Lieko Shiga

Images Invisible to Our Naked Eye

“In today’s society, where every image seems to feed into a consumer society, what kind of image can evade becoming propaganda?”

Japanese photographer Lieko Shiga combines ancient local myths with stories, memories, and personal experiences gathered from the people she encounters in her daily life. Her oeuvre is deeply rooted in Japanese folk traditions and attests to the omnipresence of the supernatural in everyday life in the country.

In her work, Shiga seeks the roots of the human spirit. Her photographs are intent on visualizing what she calls “the eternal present”—a moment that is neither past nor future, suspended in space-time. They are photographic spaces in which the viewer can find reflections of their own body and consciousness. 

In 2008, Shiga moved to Japan’s Miyagi Prefecture, where she quickly became involved in the local community. She began documenting the history of this region as well as its rites and customs, and continued producing works related to memories that span generations. Following the devastating natural catastrophe of 2011, Shiga stayed in the region to continue her photographic research. “As someone who grew up in a clean and safe environment that favored convenience, my affinity with camera equipment was an extremely violent one,” says Shiga, for whom the space-time of photography was a salvation and excitement greater than “death.”

Lieko Shiga, Portrait of Cultivation, from the Rasen Kaigan series, 2008–2012 (2018).
Lieko Shiga, Piano, (1998). Courtesy of the artist.

In 2021, Lieko Shiga received the prestigious Tokyo Contemporary Art Award. Her Human Spring series was presented in a solo exhibition at the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum (2019). Her work has also been shown at Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2022); Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea, Milan (2022); the 5th Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art, Ekaterinburg (2019); the Centre Pompidou-Metz (2017); and the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (2017).

As a mentor, Shiga is seeking artists who pursue expression through media such as photography, video, or painting. “I would like you to think about how to capture and express the images invisible to our naked eye in a concrete way and to enjoy the trial-and-error process of doing so.”

“In today’s society, where every image seems to feed into a consumer society, what kind of image can evade becoming propaganda? Why not think about it together?”

Watch Lieko Shiga’s video statement: