Go: standing out from the crowd • Bruce Gilden • Magnum Photos

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Society

Go: standing out from the crowd

Bruce Gilden goes in search of the darker side of Japan capturing a world of Yakuza, street racers and the homeless

Bruce Gilden

Bruce Gilden Two members of the Yakuza, Japan's mafia. The Yakuza's 23 gangs are Japan's top corporate earners. Asakusa, Japan. 1998. © Bruce Gilden | Magnum Photos

Arguing that many of the people in Japan wear a ‘mask of uniformity’, Bruce Gilden wanted to dig deeper to find people who were both physical and intense and who, in one way or another, stood out from the crowd.

Bruce Gilden Ken Takahashi wearing a plastic bag on his head at the high school fair. All the girls pretended they were afraid, therefore fueling Ken's comic antics. Kamonomiya, Japan. 1999. © Bruce Gilden | Magnum Photos

What he found, presented here in his collection Go, was an assortment of homeless men and women, day workers and Yakuza (members of traditional organized crime groups in Japan).

Bruce Gilden Yakuza, Japan's mafia, at Matsuri festival. The Yakuza's 23 gangs are Japan's top corporate earners. Asakusa, Japan. 1998. © Bruce Gilden | Magnum Photos
Bruce Gilden Homeless man eats his bagel in the shogee room. Japan. 2000. © Bruce Gilden | Magnum Photos

He also found right wing nationalists and Bōsōzoku – a subculture of people that share a common interest in designing and driving modified cars and motorcycles.

Bruce Gilden Sasuke & Kenta relaxing during a motorcycle meeting. I was quite amazed when the leader (the older fellow) told them to clean up or to get sodas, they all obeyed immediately as if they were in the (...)
Bruce Gilden Kaeda, business man at lunchtime outside JR station. Tokyo, Japan. 1996. © Bruce Gilden | Magnum Photos
Bruce Gilden Dayworker and homeless man in a government run building. Japan, 2000. © Bruce Gilden | Magnum Photos
Bruce Gilden Right Wing Nationalist at Yasakuni temple. Kyoto, Japan. August 15th, 1999. © Bruce Gilden | Magnum Photos

He presents another side to the traditional and often stereotypical view of Japanese society, one where not everything is high technology, and where poverty is rife. All of the images have been shot in Tokyo and Osaka and reveal how violence and hardship weave through many aspects of daily existence in these two sprawling cities.

Bruce Gilden Homeless man sleeps in the streets while commuters pass by. Tokyo, Japan. 1999. © Bruce Gilden | Magnum Photos