School Days / E

©Tomoko Sawada

Tomoko Sawada
School Days / E
108.0 x 150.0 cm
Chromogenic Print

At first glance, this looks like any ordinary class photo, but what if someone told you that everyone in it is actually the same person?

Born in Hyogo in 1977, Tomoko Sawada explores “the relationship between outward appearance and interiority” through her work that revolves around portraiture, taking her own figure or face as the subject. Now that it has become so common to take pictures of yourself in selfies and purikura photo booths, this theme might feel familiar to viewers more than ever.

This piece is a class photo of an imaginary girls’ school, a composite photograph of Sawada herself in the guise of 40 students and a teacher. The slightly differing expressions and postures of each person stand out all the more because everyone is lined up in the same uniform, and it tricks us into thinking that each one is a different person.

From this witty angle, Sawada uses our own habits against us — our subconscious tendency to try to read people’s characters in their outward appearances.

A class photo evokes a sense of nostalgia in us, but it is also symbolic of our student years, defined by the interweaving tension between discipline and individuality, and the burgeoning emotions of adolescence. While reviving our memory of that experience, this piece also conveys the infinite possibilities of individuality inherent in one woman.

(Commentary: Mami Chida / Translation: Yui Kajita)