Tomoko Sawada

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Tomoko Sawada
Education Seian University of Art and Design

Tomoko Sawada(澤田 知子,Sawada Tomoko, born 1977 in Kobe, Japan) is a Japanese contemporary feminist photographer and performance artist. [1] [2] She has been included in numerous group shows in Japan, Europe and the US. Her first solo exhibition was in 1997 at Japan's Gallery Chat. In 2004 she was awarded the prestigious Kimura Ihei Memorial Photography Award for Young Japanese Photographer as well as the International Center of Photography Infinity Award in the category of Young Photographer. [3]

Japan Country in East Asia

Japan is an island country in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies off the eastern coast of the Asian continent and stretches from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea in the south.

Photographer person who takes photographs

A photographer is a person who makes photographs.

Performance art artistic performance presented to an audience

Performance art is a performance presented to an audience within a fine art context, traditionally interdisciplinary. Performance may be either scripted or unscripted, random or carefully orchestrated, spontaneous or otherwise carefully planned with or without audience participation. The performance can be live or via media; the performer can be present or absent. It can be any situation that involves four basic elements: time, space, the performer's body, or presence in a medium, and a relationship between performer and audience. Performance art can happen anywhere, in any type of venue or setting and for any length of time. The actions of an individual or a group at a particular place and in a particular time constitute the work.


Life and work

Sawada graduated in 1998 with a degree in Media Design, then later in 2000 with a degree in Photography from the Seian University of Art and Design in Otsu, Shiga, Japan. Some of her works of art include ID-400, OMIAI♡, Costume, Schoolgirls, Costume, Cover, Masquerade, Recruit, Mirrors, and Facial Signature. Her work investigates human identity and especially gender roles and stereotypes in Japanese culture. [4] [5]

Photography Art, science and practice of creating durable images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation

Photography is the art, application and practice of creating durable images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation, either electronically by means of an image sensor, or chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film. It is employed in many fields of science, manufacturing, and business, as well as its more direct uses for art, film and video production, recreational purposes, hobby, and mass communication.

Seian University of Art and Design is a private university in Otsu, Shiga, Japan. The predecessor of the school was founded in 1920. It was chartered as a junior women's college in 1950 and became coeducational in 1993.

Sawada uses photography and techniques of performance art to explore ideas of identity, status, culture, individualism, and conformity through traditional and contemporary cultural methods of portraiture. Sawada's photographs are each part of a themed photo series in which she makes use of make-up and costume to dramatically alter her identity, such that each photograph appears to represent a different individual or group of individuals, when all subjects are Sawada herself. Sawada uses commercial photographers, photo booths, and her own studio environment with digital photo editing to represent hundreds of different identities. [6] Clearly, her use of costume in her self-portraits draws from the work of Cindy Sherman. Her work also explores the way assumptions about personality are largely driven by Japanese cultural responses to gender, job occupation, and other socio-cultural stereotypes. [7]

Cynthia Morris Sherman is an American photographer best known for her iconic portraits that depict women as imagined characters from film and other media.


Sawada's earliest self-portrait photo series is Early Days from 1995-1996 made while Sawada was in her teens. [8] Her next series, ID400, was created over the course of 4 years, from 1998-2001 using a public photo booth to take 400 different ID card style self-portraits while Sawada altered her appearance through costume, hair, and make-up changes along with altering her facial expression or even gaining/losing weight. [9] [10] Subsequent photo series continue to explore varying methods of altering Sawada's outward appearance then documenting these changes using single and group style photographic methods.

Early Days, 1995-1996

Sawada's earliest photo series. [11]

ID400, 1998-2001

For this photo series, Sawada visited the same photo booth outside a train station in Kobe, Japan over the course of four years to create 400 different black and white ID card photos of herself. [9]

OMIAI♡, 2001

Sawada's OMIAI♡ series references the traditional photo book of a young woman used by her family members for an arranged marriage. Sawada was photographed in a professional photography studio. On each visit she dressed as a different type of woman, as the photographs are carefully produced with the intention of showing a woman's identity for the prospective young man and his family. [12]

Cover/Face, 2002-2003

Photographs in this series show Sawada attired based on trends of the Japanese youth culture and the influence of Western ideas of beauty. [13] She dressed herself as a ganguro, described as a tan, California girl type idolizing the pop music star Namie Amuro. [9]

Costume, 2003

Sawada dresses in the uniforms and work clothes associated with various jobs. The idea for this series grew from her personal experiences working in different roles and learning how different people responded to her in these roles, "people’s attitude toward another person changes greatly according to their occupation." [14]

School Days, 2004

This series shows Sawada repeated within the same large group class portraits as both the students and their teacher wearing a school girl uniform and then dressed as the typical school matron. Sawada finds ways of altering her presentation wearing identical school uniforms through changes to her hair style, accessories, and facial expressions, then the images are digitally combined to create the class, including a background. [15]

Exhibitions and awards

Solo Exhibitions

Group shows


Permanent collections

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