1 February 2018

Shibuya Unmasked: Hyper-real, hidden portraiture from Tokyo

Hidden faces in one of the world's busiest places.

[T]okyo’s famous Shibuya Crossing, is one of the city’s most notable landmarks. The cross section is home to two of the busiest railway stations in the world – Shinjuku station and Shibuya station – and is one of Tokyo’s most prominent commercial and nightlife centres. All this is to say, there are thousands of people there, day and night.

Photographer Oleg Tolstoy visited Shibuya and discovered that many of the faces in this sprawling crowd were covered by face masks. The face mask is a common site in Asia and, while polluted air presents a compelling practical reason to wear one, Tolstoy discovered that many of the people he photographed wore the mask for different reasons…

I thought I’d get a lot of people telling me they were sick or suffering from hayfever, but actually, many were perfectly healthy. They chose to wear masks because they had low self-esteem, didn’t like there features, had bad skin or weren’t wearing makeup. This is a city famed for its sense of style, but even in the young, chic area of Shibuya, the uniformity of the white surgical mask is unmistakable. It seemed like people are deliberately attempting to hide in public.”