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Shadows and Lights of Japan

At the Musée Guimet, the exhibition Portrait éphémère du Japon reveals the profound duality of Japan through the lens of artistPierre-Elie de Pibrac. In black and white, he captures the cold, eternal beauty of the Land of the Rising Sun.

The "Hakanai Sonzai" series, which in Japanese means "I feel myself to be an ephemeral creature", presents a collection of portraits highlighting the underdogs of Japanese society. For 8 months, Pierre-Elie de Pibrac criss-crossed Japan, photographing deserted places and those forgotten by society. Before photographing them, the artist established intimate links with his models, in the form of correspondence. He sent them blank notebooks and disposable cameras.

Pierre-Elie de Pibrac tells the story of individuals seeking to understand their identity in the face of the weight of society's rules. Behind these elusive gazes that avoid the lens are yakuzas, Fukushima survivors and hikikomori, individuals who live cut off from the world and from others, mostly confined to their bedrooms.

Pierre-Elie de Pibrac's photographs reveal a dark, melancholy Japan. Faced with lush, unspoiled nature, waterfalls, lakes and deserted forests, the human presence reminds us of the fragility and transience of existence. A reflection on life emerges.

"Hakanai Sonzai" is inspired by the Japanese concept of Mono no Aware, which literally translates as "sadness at the ephemeral beauty of things". Deeply rooted in Japanese culture and philosophy, this notion conveys a sense of nostalgia mixed with an appreciation of the ephemeral beauty of life, of changing seasons, wilting flowers and all that is doomed to disappear.

Hakanai Sonzai is exhibited under the title Portrait éphémère du Japon at the
Musée national des Arts Asiatiques- Guimet, from September 20, 2023 to January 15, 2024. To mark the occasion, Pierre-Elie de Pibrac has published a book entitled
Hakanai Sonzai, published by Atelier EXB.

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