The mythic “salaryman,” in shirt, suit and tie, has been an icon of urban culture in Japan since the 1920s. Usually cast as a hierarchy-minded, unimaginative, binge-drinking manager type, the salaryman’s corporate loyalty is legendary, his sleep deprivation heroic. “Fun” is not among his traditional descriptors.
But Tokyo-based photographer Yuki Aoyama is out to change that. His latest series captures Japanese businessmen leaping with joy next to their daughters, who stand frozen in the universal discomfort of teens whose dads are trying to be cool.
“Salarymen are very common ‘creatures’ or ‘figures’ in my country, who do not seem to have any original personality, [due to] the same or similar colors of suits and shoes,” says Aoyama, 36. “I wanted to bring out their hidden individuality by making them jump.”
Aoyama’s series, published as a book in Mar. 2015, is called SOLARYMEN With Daughters!
Shot over three years in locations all across Japan, the photo series is part of SOLARYMEN, a 10-year project to investigate and document Japan’s office workers. The neologism “solarymen” combines Japanese word sora (sky) with “salarymen.”
None of the daughters were asked to pose, says Aoyama, although each father was invited to jump any way he liked. “I believe it expresses an ideal relationship between father and daughter,” he says. “When a father jumps in front of his own daughter—which doesn’t tend to happen so often!—the father makes his best effort.”