In Through a Lens: Michael Magers, Ronin Gallery invites you to join photographer Michael Magers on a decade of travels throughout Japan.
In this selection of 24 black-and-white photographs, Magers composes poetry of light and shadow, of solitary subjects in richly textured settings. He stills the rush of daily life to capture the story of a moment, unfolding beneath the neon glow on a street of shuttered storefronts or within the private workshop of a master craftsman. This pause lends a solemnity to fleeting moments of beauty that might otherwise be overlooked–an artisan’s hand painting a strand of hair on a noh mask, the fall of light over the curvature of a sumo wrestler.
May 2017, Yakushima, Kagoshima Prefecture. This image is the cover of my book, Independent Mysteries (2019), and perhaps the image most representative of the title. Yakushima is one of the southernmost parts of Japan, a wild island famous for its ancient forests and 1000-year-old trees. I’ve heard it’s the birthplace of animism and nature worship in Japan that eventually morphed into modern day Shinto. This image always confounds me. I was hiking up a trail deep in the forest and coming down the mountain was an older man, well dressed in a suit carrying a briefcase. It was pure cognitive dissonance at every level. Many Japanese have asked me about his mental state. I’m cautious to comment that he was coming down the mountain and seemed quite cheerful–we spoke with him briefly, as much to confirm he wasn’t an apparition as anything else!
Through Magers’ lens, these split-second narratives are united through a persistent tension between connection and disconnection that he experienced during his life on the road. The sentiment spans both private and public moments–whether glimpsed through an open window or captured in the crowded heart of a summer festival. This feeling of ‘intimate distance’ between the photographer, subject, and, ultimately, the viewer, threads throughout this collection of photographs. To complement Magers’ work, a small selection of ukiyo-e will be on view, paired with photographs that explore the themes of sumo, tattoo, ama (female free divers), and shokunin (craftspeople). In addition, a micro-exhibition of Meiji-period (1868-1912) photography will be on view.
March 2018, Ebisu, Tokyo. The great photographer Saul Leiter once remarked that he couldn’t help himself when it came to photographing umbrellas and I think I have some of the same affliction. Tokyo is magic in the rain–the neon, the reflections, and especially the clear umbrellas, they are irresistible to me. I had stumbled out of a cocktail bar with the great Ioanna Morelli of Bar Gyu and was getting soaked as I looked down an alleyway and saw this man, hunched and alone, in some deep contemplation.
Michael Magers, born in Dallas in 1976, is a documentary photographer and journalist whose work takes him all over the world. From deep dives into international food cultures to intimate views into the ateliers of traditional artisans, Magers imbues each photograph with a story. In 2013, he stepped back from a corporate career to hone a more creative life and pursue his passion for photography. Based between New York City and Austin, Texas, Magers is a frequent collaborator with the highly acclaimed team at Roads & Kingdoms and served as the lead photographer on their award-winning travel books Rice Noodle Fish (2015) and Grape Olive Pig (2016) published by Harper Collins/Anthony Bourdain. His work has been exhibited internationally–from Cuba to Japan, Paris to New York–and appeared in a wide range of digital and print publications including TIME, Smithsonian, CNN, and The Washington Post, to name just a few. In 2019, he released his first monograph, Independent Mysteries, a selection images from his years on the road juxtaposed with original writing from his friends and collaborators.
A public opening reception with the artist will be held on May 11th from 5:30-7:30 pm. In addition, Ronin Gallery will celebrate Through a Lens: Michael Magers with an exclusive pop-up event. For one night only, the gallery will transform into a speakeasy in collaboration with award-winning travel publication Roads & Kingdoms and pioneering cocktail bar Angel’s Share, with spirits provided by the House of Suntory.