|Notes on KABUKI||view bio|
The actors in Hiroshi Watanabe’s series on Kabuki, a theatrical tradition dating back to the 17th century, are not celebrities but rather amateurs in small theater companies. “Photographing major Kabuki players in Japan is like photographing movie stars in the U.S.,” Watanabe says. “I wanted to photograph Japanese people, not famous people.” Watanabe found that, paradoxically, these actors often revealed more of themselves than his other subjects. Protected as they are by their elaborate costumes, they may feel less self-conscious and so let slip some hint of the person behind the mask, from a barely perceptible smile to a fleeting look of apprehension. We all play roles, and Watanabe’s photographs capture the way those roles can shift, revealing a bit of our true selves.