In Shizuka Yokomizo’s series of portraits called Strangers, each photograph shows someone looking out of a window. The artist has never met any of these people. She selected their addresses and then wrote an anonymous letter asking if the recipient would stand at a particular window, alone, with the room lights on, at a specific time of night so that she could photograph them from the street. The artist simply promised to be there waiting. If they did not wish to participate they could close the curtains.
You look through people’s windows. Are you a Peeping Tom?
I don’t think so, because the people I portray are entitled to refuse. And I can see them while they can see me. I use a standard lense, very much like the human eye, and by using that lense, I have to get quite close.
Are they your victims?
No. I wrote in the letter that I sent them: If you are not interested in participating in this project, if you don’t want to have your picture taken, then just close your curtains to show your refusal. So in a way they choose to be there: They are not victims. I was very tense and nervous to do this project, and they were probably also nervous about it and a little bit scared. And I was scared because I didn’t know, what was going to happen.
Do you invade their private lives?
Technically yes, but they are allowing me to see them in their homes. Much more it’s about encounter, about eye contact and about recognizing that they exist. I exist as a stranger, they exist as strangers so it’s more about about creating a meeting point rather than just showing people’s private lives. The reason that I post my letter to them well in advance is, that I want to give them time to think. For me the process is very emotionally demanding, and for them it might just be a very scary scenario.