CelebrityKenji Hirasawa

(Bemojake, 2011)

However we may try to elude its presence, the cult of celebrity influences every aspect of our lives. For many, these figures have increasingly become the demigods of a brand-laden culture, endorsing the products we desire and living the lifestyles to which we aspire.  Where once celebrity was predominantly a by-product of talent, intellect or social position, now we feverishly embrace individuals whose only skill is that of obtaining fame and with it, the ownership of one of the most revered social titles: celebrity.

One of the more eccentric and obscure manifestations of this veneration is that of Madame Tussaud’s. First opened in London in 1884, this waxwork gallery of heroes and heroines is an evolving barometer of the most revered and prevalent icons of the time— a high alter to the religion. In Celebrity, Japanese photographer Kenji Hirasawa uses a thermographic camera to capture devotees interacting with the inanimate subjects of their admiration, and in doing so, explores our relationship with those whom we worship and the part they play in our lives.

Hirasawa’s lens records the subject emitting the most prominent heat, defining and measuring the most ecstatic and alive with the greatest clarity. The lifeless figures of idolization are relegated to anonymous ghostly shapes, stripped of their status and only extant in the photographic image due to the presence of their devotees. Celebrity suggests that the lives of those that we can never really know are irrelevant without the congregation that so passionately believes in their existence.

In Celebrity, Hirasawa has wonderfully applied an obscure but appropriately relevant creative process to his subject matter. In his critique of the idolization and worship of celebrity culture, a wider human condition is scrutinized and potentially even our own reality and desires are questioned. Celebrity is an insightfully conceived and superbly packaged work, playful, smart and energetically engaging.

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