The Other Japan

The New York Sun – William Meyers

The 11 black-and-white oversized (60 inches by 40 inches) pictures at Silverstein show that Mr. Gilden, too, is indebted to Weegee for his technique. And his subject matter is close to Mr. Moriyama’s in “Transvestite Outside Bar, Shinjuku” (1999). (Shinjuku is the section of Tokyo devoted to license.)

This is a pathetic creature. He is in a losing battle with contingency: the happenstance that made him a man, the inevitable attrition of mortality. He wears a miniskirt of black-and-white checkerboard squares, secured at the waist by a broad elasticized belt that seems painfully tight. His legs are encased in stockings of some shiny material and end in shoes secured with an elaborate arrangement of straps. A pocketbook and oversized necklaces, bracelets, and earrings complete the ensemble; it would be comic were it not for his face.

Mr. Gilden’s camera is pointed down from a position slightly above the transvestite’s head, which makes it seem larger than it really is. The face is round, flat-nosed, and high-cheeked. He has enormous eyelashes, heavy eyebrows, and a comically exaggerated cupid’s bow of lipstick framing his mouth. Like Weegee, Mr. Gilden uses a flash even when close up, which highlights the subject and separates it from the background. In this instance, the background has repeated copies of the sort of paper sales poster used by cheap discount stores, appropriate for a man who is merchandizing himself. His squared shoulders are the last vestiges of a terribly diminished dignity.