Satoshi Fujiwara has made a career of highlighting distortions of the world, and the slippery nature of objective truth, through what has been considered to be the most honest form of reproduction: the camera. Fujiwara produces bodies of work that challenge photography’s ability to render truth, instead focusing on the medium’s ability to both produce and challenge reality as we understand it. His images are observant and detached, almost exaggeratedly so, offering an opportunity to challenge the reproduction and consumption of imagery and reality as something that simply is, rather than something that is constructed. 

Satoshi Fujiwara - Code Unknown (1) - Festival Art Souterrain 2019; Crédit : Mike Patten (

Fujiwara’s images live in this uncomfortable and striking lacuna. “In the so-called post-truth era, photography isn’t an instrument depicting narratives anymore, but it should stand as an autonomous medium. I always attempt to detach images from [their] original context/meaning to show something with the absence of its sources in a different context.” In a time when truth is increasingly seen as malleable, says Fujiwara, “I think the so-called truth doesn’t mean something that already exists, but what we always need to create and re/define.” 

Born in Kobe, Japan, and currently based in Berlin, Fujiwara has shown extensively in both Japan and Europe as well as in Canada, counting Tokyo’s 21_21 Design Sight, Milan’s Fondazione Prada, and Toronto’s Museum of Contemporary Art among his wide range of venues. “I purposely [eliminate] the sense and context of my origin from my work to avoid being seen/treated with [an] orientalism aspect, or post-modern contexts such as so-called diversity or as a minority in the West. I think that is why the work has been grasped with a heterogeneous aesthetic and definition both in other continents and my native Japan.”

Installation view of SATOSHI FUJIWARA’s “EU” at Fondazione Prada Osservatorio, Milan, 2017 (

Fujiwara’s bodies of work are influenced not only by long-term societal trends like the growing specter of omnipresent surveillance culture, as in his 2016-17 series 5K confinement: HD environment surface surveillance and Code Unknown (2014-15), but also by reactions to instantaneous and spontaneous historical events like the Paris suicide bombing attacks on Friday, November 16, 2015 (Friday Reports, 2015). In 5k confinement and Code Unknown, Fujiwara documents people going about their day, unaware they are being photographed, using oblique angles and extreme close-ups. The two series mine the inherent and purposeful tension between critique of the omnipresent surveillance state and the intrusive act of taking photos of people who have not given their consent to be photographed. 

In contrast, Fujiwara’s Friday Reports series captures the raw cacophony of history being made and formed by journalists and photographers investigated and constructing the history of that event. Snippets of reporters’ notes, of faces squinting into video cameras, contribute to the immediacy and rawness of the moments following a major world event—of the scramble to decide how it will be conveyed to the world and to the future. Of Friday Reports, Fujiwara comments: “what I attempt in the series was not to report the incident itself, but [to] describe how it was treated in the media.” The breathless spectacle of history being made is as much the subject as the event itself; Fujiwara’s images depict, crucially, the truth—the understanding, the objective facts of the event that will become the consensus understanding of what happened—being created as well.

Fujiwara’s work often evokes a sense of claustrophobia through either the tightly-packed juxtaposition of edited images, or through extreme closeups of his human subjects that leave no room for breath or comfort. In the era of COVID-19, where many of us live in worlds that have been shrunken to encompass the perimeter of our homes, Fujiwara aims “to seek a new visual language to render that. The general perception in space and our sense of distance has been changed by the pandemic accordingly, people’s perception of images might also be changed, in the sense of temporality and spatiality.” After all, the effect of looking at a massive installation in person in an airy gallery differs dramatically from viewing images of that installation, stretched only as far as our laptop screens allow. Of his work in King Kong #10, Fujiwara remarks that his new approach highlights what he calls “image production in the time of circumscription.”

Of his ever-changing practice, Fujiwara summarizes: “In any kind of situation, I make it my basic principle to survey—from a third-person point of view— how visual information is re-/produced, re-/used, and re-/consumed, instead of being misled by various biases and peer pressures on media or social networking sites.”