Part weekly planner, part conceptual documentary, “Salaryman Project” from Bruno Quinquet merges the practical with the artistic. Quinquet’s architectural eye for composition pairs with his subjects, a hard-working mass of faceless, suited men that pepper the streets and subways of Tokyo. A Frenchman who has spent seven years in Japan, Quinquet recently released this illustrated 2013 planner that explores the the average Japanese salaryman as well as the passing seasons.
Asked about the difference between a businessman and a salaryman, Quinquet explains, “The Japanese salaryman is generally not a businessman but an office worker. The conservative formal dress code is similar, but in urban Japan, being a salaryman (or ‘doing the salaryman’ as the Japanese say sometimes) is being a normal, average man.” The men are photographed in common situations—commuting, eating, texting—and grace the pages of the planner as faceless icons.
As it turns out, the anonymity has more to do with Quinquet than the individuals. “In France, for a very long time we’ve had a specific rule that grants people the right to their own image, even in the public space,” he explains. “As a result, candid photography has turned into an uneasy and suspicious activity, even though it’s not illegal. To feel at peace with this very French guilty feeling I had when I started photography in Japan, I decided to let my Japanese subjects escape the gaze of my camera.”
Salaryman Project is produced as part of the Bureau d’Etudes Japonaises, Quinquet’s imagined group that acts as an umbrella for his photographic pursuits. “In Japan, it is important to belong to a group, a company, or association. Trapped between French academicism and Japanese corporate culture, Bureau d’Etudes Japonaises is a surrealistic answer to that matter of fact.” Quinquet also admits that the Bureau helps to draw attention away from himself and allows for a more scientific approach to his projects.
Salaryman Project is available on Quinquet’s website as a photobook, PDF and limited edition artist book.