Sly Morikawa's lens is a doorway to an alternate reality, one that's familiar but without a marked address. The photographs are cloaked in a gossamer haze of nostalgia and the heady musk of emotion. One wonders if it's her own emotional landscape we're happening upon, or the dual space created between subject and photographer? In Morikawa's latest photo series, White Socks, which is currently on display at Salt & Pepper in Shibuya, Tokyo, the photographer heroes a recurrent motif in her work: the humble white sock.
Ubiquitous and mundane, white socks are a blank canvas for metaphor. In Morikawa's work, they evoke the domestic and sensual, they're provocative and yet imply innocence. Consider the laundry staple, and it will lead you to the larger themes at play in the photographer's practice, which revolves around subculture, sex, agency and selfhood.
With White Socks open to the public, RUSSH spoke to Sly Morikawa. Below, the photographer talks her first memories of photography and her unique aesthetic world.
What are your first memories of photography?
My mum took a lot of photos of our family growing up, and so did her father before her. Our family archives are extensive and I’ve always been interested in the history of it.
The aesthetic world of Sly Morikawa is…
Soft, tough, and intimate.
Tell me about white socks? What do they represent to you?
It’s not so much what they represent to me, but what they can represent for anyone. The simplicity alludes to so much. They’re functional, suggestive, provocative, pure, mundane. They represent girlhood, boyhood, everyone’s every day. Intimacy, domesticity, tradition, anything.
Are there any other motifs that emerge as strongly in your work?
I’d say cars, cats, women, nostalgia. Lots of duality as well – light and dark, femininity and masculinity, harmony and dissonance.
If you could create a soundtrack for this series, what music would play?
I actually made a playlist to run while the show is on, as is the gallery’s tradition. Some of the artists include POiSON GiRL FRiEND, Moodymann, Devon Hendryx, Deftones, Shady Nasty, Soichi Terada, and Four Tet.
Are there any salient memories associated with any of the photographs?
Everyone I photographed for this series was an old or new friend making each experience special in its own way. Photography for me has always led to beautiful connections with people.
Talk to me about your connection to Japan…
I grew up in Sydney but Japan is my motherland. It’s like half my soul has always remained here.
Do you have a favourite place to hit up in Tokyo?
I love different parts of Tokyo for different reasons but it’s an exhausting, ever-evolving place. Things come and go, and I might spend a lot of time somewhere only to never return there again. I prefer the Japanese countryside; I try to visit my mother’s hometown in Fukuyama, Hiroshima as often as I can. It’s peaceful, beautiful, laden with nostalgia. I love the surrounding mountains, rivers, forests, and sea.
What has the response to your work been like in Japan?
The response has been overwhelming, and I’m immensely grateful for all the support and encouragement I’ve received – from the gallery, friends, family, strangers. People genuinely value photography here, it’s so deeply ingrained in the culture. Making work and having it resonate with other people will always feel special to me.
What do you hope 2024 has in store for you?
White Socks by Sly Morikawa is currently showing at Salt & Pepper, Shibuya until November 3.