Photographer Issey Gladston’s work is known for the poignant sense of place that rests at the foundations of her portraiture. Her photography is a navigation of identity, intimacy and togetherness, shining most acutely in unfamiliar spaces, in which she might seek out these fundamental pillars of the human experience in strikingly different light - spaces where ‘eyes are still hungry…where nothing is mundane, like you’ve just begun to see’ (!GWAK Interview, Aug 2019). In her seventy-six page zine ‘Everyone I Love Is Asleep’, Gladston documents the time she spent as a nineteen-year-old in Japan with searing clarity, compassion and vulnerability.
Printed to open left-to-right, and accompanied by Japanese translations of the English text, the zine is a love letter to duality – that of the country itself and its many textured layers, but also that of her experience as both a resident and a visitor. It is a celebration of noticing, and quietly reconciling, difference and distance. Gladston affectionately captures the interactivity between spaces and people; heritage and nation; pace and stillness; nature and industry, and, most essentially, between solitude and togetherness.
A departure, perhaps, from the vitality and unabating intimacy of her nightlife and shoot-based portraiture, there is a quietness to the portraits she captures of her subjects in Japan - a closeness, that seamlessly coexists with a distance. The work is underscored with an affecting sense of stolen moments, secret spaces. It is at its most beautiful in its immortalising of these quiet moments (a solitary conductor calling the train in; a woman carrying her shopping and glancing into the doorway that frames the image) that Gladston captures, while never distancing itself from its grounding within the density of life in the world’s eleventh most populated country.
The privacy of these images underlines both the intimacy of capturing home, and the distance of creating as an outsider. As she reflects in her introduction, her time was characterised by isolation and unfamiliarity, but in equal parts was coloured in glorious hues by the people she met ‘who flooded into the space left by [her] slumbering friends half the world away’.
The zine beautifully reflects the multiplicity and fluidity of what we might call home, and how we might engage and interact with that of others. Reconciling the dualities and nuances of city, identity and belonging, Gladston affectingly and succinctly expresses the impact that her life in Japan has had on her: ‘instead of everyone I love being asleep, someone I love will always be awake’.
100% of profits from the zine will go to Colabo, an initiative that is run to help teenage girls at risk of sexual exploitation in Tokyo.
WORDS BY MILLIE NORMAN
EDITING BY WILL BAKER
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ISSEY GLADSTON