Tokoku creates extraordinary portraits of Tokyo’s residents by photographing their refrigerators, closed and open. She began the series in 1978 when her young daughter observed that the full–size American refrigerator in their small Japanese house had a greater presence than its function as an appliance. Since that time Ushioda has chronicled the intimate details of the lives of Tokyo’s residents through her Ice Box series.
Some of the refrigerators are sleek and modern; others are battered and out-of-date. Some hold a minimum of food, revealing a sparse urban lifestyle; others are stuffed full, documenting a more chaotic existence. Each exposes the most intimate details of their owners’ lives and begins a narrative that the viewer is left to complete.
Image credit: Ushioda Tokuko. Born in Tokyo, Japan, 1940. Lives and works in Tokyo. Refrigerator—1984 Nakano-ku, Tokyo (56 A and B), 1984. Gelatin silver prints. Smith College Museum of Art. Smith College Museum of Art. Museum purchase in honor of Peggy Block Danziger, class of 1962. ©2015 Ushioda Tokoku.