Born in the Netherlands in 1983, Pascal Vossen is a Sweden-based portrait and documentary photographer with a particular interest in exploring the social relationships between people and their position in our contemporary society. In 2012, he received his MA in Commercial and Corporate Law from Maastricht University in the Netherlands. During the autumn of 2013, he worked at NOOR collective based in Amsterdam, which further intensified his interest for visual storytelling. In 2014, Pascal graduated from the MA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography course at the London College of Communication, led by Paul Lowe, Max Houghton and Edmund Clark. Under their supervision he finished his latest project, The Nail That Sticks Up Will Be Hammered Down, on the paradox between individualism and collectivism in contemporary Japan. Today we share that series.
The Nail That Sticks Up Will Be Hammered Down
7.30AM Umegaoka Station. Silence. Salarymen wait in line to press their bodies into the commuter train, destination Shinjuku. They are financial warriors, kigyou senshi, clinging to their briefcases and Iphones for a 12-16 hour shift in the office.
These contemporary samurai are a product of Japan’s ambition to become one of the most prosperous nations in the world; to recover a sense of itself after the devastation of WWII. Collectivism underpinned this desire, turning it from a dream to a promise. An entire generation pictures Japan as the shiny technological superstar of the new millennium.
The Japanese saying ‘the nail that sticks up will be hammered down’ refers to the corresponding rejection of individualism by conservative society. Yet, everywhere Japanese youth culture flourishes, daring to look up, out and beyond. Young women and men increasingly deviate from preset roles, and pop culture sways to its own unique rhythm, adored by the West as it in turn emulates aspects of an alternative ideology.
Western culture lies at the heart of the individual development of the young generation, encouraging them to pursue their own identity, a dishonorable and selfish act in the eyes of older Japanese. This development has caused confusion as it conflicts with the conservative spoon-fed ideology of many young Japanese.
By spending time in Tokyo, I sought to explore this change in a society held together by tradition and a coherent belief in the same norms and values. I wanted to study this societal complexity through photographs, to capture a nation in flux, watching closely for the moments when its many beautiful faces were revealed.
To view more of Pascal’s work, please visit his website.