Cities are a favorite subject for photographers, filled as they are with visual stimuli and primed for artistic criticism. A new series of images by Nurri Kim takes as its target the city of Tokyo, zooming in on one specific—and often overlooked—aspect of the cityscape: tarps. Kim's project, entitled Tokyo Blues, features black and white photos spiked with the bright blue hue of plastic tarps, draped over buildings, under roadways, and across plazas.
Tokyo Blues is the debut work of Do projects, a collaboration between Kim and writer/design director Adam Greenfield. The collection includes an essay by Greenfield that breaks down the many roles of the ubiquitous tarp in Tokyo. Probably the most obvious use that comes to mind is the tarp as a shelter, as is often seen in homeless encampments. But Greenfield points out that the blue sheeting can act simultaneously to draw attention and to deflect it. There is "that which is meant to be seen, either as caution, as promotion, or as a sideways admission of the problems it may cause for others," he says, and "that which is meant not to be seen; camouflage, the disruption of contours, misdirection and distraction." And beyond that, there is the use of the tarp to establish an unspoken, mutually understood denial of a place altogether.