A famous photographer by international standards, the digitally altered photography of Miwa Yanagi aims to probe beyond the superficial implication of the work and is conceptually complex and intriguing. The two dimensionality of the work is significant in expressing the ideas lurking beneath the surface. Setting similar women of a similar age in eerie yet familiar settings of subways platforms or escalators, Yanagi's photographs consist of several positioned women in a digitally constructed scene. By superimposing the groups of women in different positions along the chosen environment, Yanagi's photographs are powerful because she takes the roles of women we normally disregard and compels the viewer to contemplate their roles by concentrating their sole presence. Like a director of a movie, each of these women portray a role- they are representative of the young women in Japan partaking in the mundane "career" jobs of being elevator girls or floor hostesses.
Clad in identical pale blue uniforms, the women in reality and in Yanagi's photographs are chosen for specific traits that most shoppers and passer-byers will find appealing; long black hair, pale skin, a gleaming smile and a sweet voice. These women in Elevator Girl House B3 (lot 1006) are the sole subject of the image and demand the viewer's utmost attention. Like a community, these women and their jobs are partaken by a specific group and meet a particular demand. Like a culture within the service-based society of Japan itself, the viewer must wonder how valuable these women are in his or her daily lives. The women are reminiscent of mannequins as they stand gracefully to greet and inform the shoppers of a department store, yet they, like an automated machine, simply answer accordingly and are as unanimated as inanimate objects. Standing unengaged with one another despite the close proximity to one another, the figures in Elevator Girl House B3 scatter along the seemingly endless subway line which recedes into the depths of the print. In the way that the train track circulates back to the beginning, the women and their careers is suggested as flat, monotonous and cyclical, further emphasized by the dark edges of the print which enhance the tunneling effect of the train tracks. Unable to divert off into a tangent in direction and career, the women appear to be a means to an end; a provider of service to other people.
Yanagi's works should not be interpreted as feminist but a commentary by a Japanese woman on the ideals and realities of feminism in Japan. It is unlikely that without prompt that a foreign audience will capture the essence that the women represented in this work is a common sight in high-end Japanese department stores. Yet, the solitary and idle existence of the women in their delicate white gloves, shoes and hat has a certain grace and traditionalism that is representative of Japan. An international audience of both men and women will however able to ponder the role of women in today's working world in the audience's respective countries.