Shizuka Yokomizo, between Exhibitionism and Surveillance

‘Dear Stranger’ is the story of a troubling relationship between the photographer and the subject, who meet without seeing each other.


WordsHenri Robert

“Dear Stranger” - Shizuka Yokomizo

Dear Stranger, I am an artist working on a photographic project which involves people I do not know… I would like to take a photograph of you standing in your front room from the street in the evening.’ This was the opening to the letter sent by Japanese photographer Shizuka Yokomizo to strangers between 1998 and 2000 to create her series Dear Stranger.

Born in Tokyo in 1967, Shizuka Yokomizo studied philosophy at Chuo University before moving to London and attending the prestigious Goldsmiths University. Her work, presented by the gallery Wako Works of Art, focuses mainly on human relationships and the notions of intimacy, temporality, and distance.


Look through the window for ten minutes

The letter continued as follows, explaining the process and the guidelines to adhere to: ‘A camera will be set outside the window on the street. If you do not mind being photographed, please stand in the room and look into the camera through the window for 10 minutes on __-__-__ (date and time)…I will take your picture and then leave…we will remain strangers to each other…If you do not want to get involved, please simply draw your curtains to show your refusal…I really hope to see you from the window.

Facing the night-time skyline, the subjects can just make out the photographer’s silhouette and find themselves looking at themselves, at their reflection in the glass. The fact that the subject cannot see the photographer gives the impression that they also cannot see the public looking at them. When viewing the photographs, the observer feels as though they are in a voyeuristic position. This project addresses various themes, including the issues of surveillance and the boundaries of the private sphere, exhibitionism, collaboration, and control.

What led me to do those pieces were the situations that I just happened to be in—situations where I was in a foreign country as a stranger, feeling a sense of alienation, or estrangement’, the artist explains in an interview with photographer Takashi Homma. It was cultural practices that could potentially seem disconcerting that aroused the photographer’s interest and gave rise to this project. ‘For example, in England, most of the buildings had windows facing the street, and people tended to leave their curtains open at night, so I could see inside as I walked through the streets’, Shizuka Yokomizo continues.

The series was presented at MIMOCA in Kagawa and at the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo.

Another facet of Shizuka Yokomizo’s work can be seen in the video Forever (and again) (2003), the photographs from which can be found on her website and in the collections at the Mori Art Museum; the video is composed of images of four elderly women in Great Britain playing a waltz by Chopin. The melody disappears and reappears again and again, questioning the notion of time as a concept that is both ephemeral and eternal.


Dear Stranger (1998-2000), a series of photographs by Shizuka Yokomizo, can be viewed on her website.

'Dear Stranger' - Shizuka Yokomizo

'Dear Stranger' - Shizuka Yokomizo

'Dear Stranger' - Shizuka Yokomizo

'Dear Stranger' - Shizuka Yokomizo

'Dear Stranger' - Shizuka Yokomizo