A melon is the earth, high heels are escalators, an apple peel is a red carpet, croissants are clouds ….
Miniature photographer Tatsuya Tanaka has been presenting new works on Instagram every day since 2011. He uses daily goods and diorama dolls for his works using a technique called “Mitate”. “Mitate” is Japanese for analogy. It means to express one object by making it look as if it is imitating another. The contemporary art scene is conservative in Japan and it is very difficult for young artists to achieve success. This May, Tanaka was chosen as one of the art finalists for “The Shorty Awards” which took place on May 5th in New York City and honors artists and professionals from various fields who worked with social media. An unknown, former advertisement designer from a rural city in Japan attracts 2 million followers worldwide! The key to his success is “continuing”.
Tanaka lives in Kagoshima City, a rural city in southwestern Japan near Okinawa. He doesn’t think that he has to be in Tokyo, NY, or Paris because he is always connected to the world via Instagram.
He has a license to teach elementary school and he likes children. He left his favorite advertising design company to focus on Instagram and parenting. Tanaka puts the child’s point of view at the center of his creative work, which attracts art fans all over the world.
His most representative work takes croissants and makes them look like clouds, with people playing on the clouds. This work consists of two children’s point of view.
Broccoli’s lush green color gives this work depth and a group of picnicking individuals creates an atmosphere of being surrounded by natural trees.
Tanaka’s works are easy to understand, accessible, and reach many people without the need for rigorous artistic interpretation. The work is also surprisingly deep and merits repeated viewings.
Tanaka says: “I heard that Mitate is very Japanese-like. In dry mountain water (Karesansui), sand is used as water. It is a diorama of those days.”
At the beginning of his work on Instagram, he did not limit himself to Mitate, but because there were a lot of “Likes” for his Mitate, he decided to concentrate on it.
“The key to success on Instagram is to update it daily. Unknown artists will not be followed if they just upload once a week”.
He chooses motifs that can be understood by people from any country. This work places a car in the space at the bottom of the high heel, making it part of the scenery. He uses all the elements of this motif to evoke the liveliness of a town.
Tanaka has a clever sense for business, and has developed a strategy for attracting many followers.
“Six months after I started Instagram, I published a photo book on cloud-funding. The photo book was successful and I held a solo exhibition one year later. That show has also been successful. ”
Tanaka’s mission as an artist is, “to convey the world of Mitate; that is, to express the joy and values of ordinary, everyday life. Here, you can see a silver trash can in front of you. If you think of it as a great commercial building, it will look cool and it will seem like an important thing. ”
In Tanaka’s work, he makes things look dramatically different with the addition of just one small element. In Japan, there is a culture of enjoying jokes by replacing one word with another word with another meaning. Not “mask melon”, but “map melon”?
It is very difficult for a contemporary artist to succeed in Japan, where the conservative art world has the authority. Tanaka’s creed is “Continuing is power.” He continued careful trial and error every day, so he could have achieved such a success.
Japan’s national broadcaster, NHK World, has released interview video of Tanaka.