Gao, Charlie

Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London
Photography Professional Practice and Academic Portfolio (PPA)

MA (Cantab), Trinity College, University of Cambridge

︎ [email protected]  ︎

Charlie Gao is an artist and photographer with particular interest in photography theory. Pursuing the possibilities of photography as an unbounded and non-specific concept. Long-term projects explore photography as performative designation, ritual, and way of life.

Shikokuchuo 四国中央

I first visited Japan in 2009 and have been returning every year. What is it about this place that draws me back?

I first visited Shikokuchuo in 2016. Now when I return to Japan, it is to Shikokuchuo that I must go. What is it about this place that draws me back so?

I have come to realise that my photography over the past 10 years has been about trying to capture that unique time-space. The essence of that physical place and experience. That feeling that keeps drawing me back.

Each sentiment on one sliver of photographic film.

I have come to realise that this is not actually an attempt at documentation. Rather, of creation – that of my own Shikokuchuo. A transformation of a time-space into a mind-construct – an idealisation, imagination, fantasy...
これはドキュメンテーションではないのがわかって来た。むしろ創造なのだ ー 自分の心中の四国中央を。時空から心中のことに変換なのだ ー 心中の意とか思いとかファンタジーとか。

One sliver of photographic film at a time.

For I can sometimes find Shikokuchuo elsewhere. Perhaps it can be re-created. This project has in its own way become somewhat of an obsession, a compulsion.

Can photography simultaneously be trigger and form of therapy?

An obsession and creation since 2010

“I want to do it to protect the things I cherish.”

                                                                                        – line from Shodo Girls (film, 2010)

Shikokuchuo is a coastal city located in Ehime prefecture on the smallest of Japan’s four main islands. It is the leading producer of paper and paper products in the country, a centre of industry set in a traditional rural landscape.

Founded through the amalgamation of smaller towns, it literally means “Shikoku Central City” and was named in a time when it had hoped to become an important centre for the entire Shikoku island. It is presently dealing with the consequences of rural depopulation and relative economic decline.

A 2010 film, Shodo Girls, has as its subject a high school performance calligraphy contest set in Shikokuchuo.

This, as in the film, prompted a focal point for the community revival of the city, as evidenced by the posters and placards still remaining at various filming locations.

Whilst the immediate effects have long since dissipated, the spirit of the film lives on.

Light Brushing

I am a photographer.

I affirm this each morning by pointing my camera at the window and taking a photograph, nothing more than this.

Since February 2015 (ongoing)

Selected frames from over 1,200 taken over 2015-19

Exhibited as an analogue carousel slide show projection at Central Saint Martins, 1 Granary Square, London February 2016

Araki Nobuyoshi, Tokyo Radiation August 6-15th, 2010:

Araki was receiving radiation treatment for cancer and every morning he

“looked at the sky
                                   from where the bombs came”.

“Other people brush their teeth, I brush my eyes,”

he said.

Green, D. and Lowry, J. (2003):

“Photographs... are not just indexical because light happened to be recorded in an instant on a piece of photosensitive film, but because,

first and foremost,
                                   they were taken.

The very act of photography, as a kind of

gesture, which points to an event in the world,
                                    as a form of designation...

is thus itself a form of indexicality.”


Shikokuchuo 四国中央
ISBN 978-1-36-689859-3

Hanabi 花火
ISBN 978-1-36-443104-4

Tsuki 月
ISBN 978-1-36-443117-4


The following text provides a skeleton theoretical framework underpinning much of my work and views on photography.

For the time being it remains the nearest thing to any manifesto I might propose.

︎PDF  Exposing the light chamber: a note on photography

© 2010-19 Gao, Charlie