I discovered photography in my adult life. In my mid-thirties, something happened in my life which ripped away my identity. In order to “survive” I needed an outlet. I desperately started looking for a release, trying to find a way to put my life back in order and to pull myself together. Finally, I happened to come across a pinhole camera and the Yaeyama Islands.
The Yaeyama Islands are located in the southwest of Okinawa Prefecture, Japan, near Taiwan. Being located in southern Japan though, the climate is completely different from Tokyo. Even in winter, you’ll see a lot of flowers like hibiscuses and bougainvilleas. The ocean is blue, butterflies are flying, and the sun is shining so you’ll get a suntan. Unlike Tokyo, the time seems to pass slowly in the Yaeyama Islands.
From the beginning, my pinhole camera started capturing a lot more than I expected; such as lights which reflect my feelings. I never officially studied photography. I just started taking photos my own way, yet the camera captures the greatest moments. The camera became my companion for traveling. Whenever I go traveling, I bring my camera and film.
I do photography solo because I want to fill the environment solely with my feelings. Usually, I use a tripod to hold the camera steady, open the shutter manually, run into frame, and keep still for 30 to 60 seconds. However, I sometimes move my body to the flow of my feelings. When I feel the time is right, I run back to my camera and close the shutter. These 30 to 60 seconds are truly precious for me. I’m not just taking a photo of my figure and the scenery. I am trying to capture the natural energy of the environment; the wind, lights, surrounding trees, and my own feelings. Each moment will never pass again. We need to treasure every encounter. How much can I synchronize with nature in one shot? How much can I connect with my true soul?
Nature teaches us many things. It says no words, but we can learn so much when we stop to focus on it. Take trees, for example. They live out their lives in the same spot where they were born. Even when a storm hits and breaks their branches, they repair themselves; bear fruit, shed leaves in autumn, and re-grow leaves and branches in the spring. And they go with the wind. I respect such a simple way of life. They don’t complain about, nor judge, the things which happen to them. They just accept things as they are. There is no technique to living such a peaceful life; their lifecycle is just a repetition. Through my photography, I became aware of this precious fact.
A humans’ life is a lot more complicated than that of any other species. Learning is an essential part of life, but I want to live a life that is less complicated. In order to live more simply, I decided to learn from plants how to take life more lightheartedly. Luckily, Yaeyama Islands have a lot of rich nature. As nature reigns over the islands, it’s a fully spiritual experience. I didn’t realize this at the beginning of my trip. I just followed the spiritual energy. Now I’m trying to connect with nature not only in the Yaeyama Islands, but even in foreign countries. I just go to places that draw me in.
My shots are experiences I had, not just pictures I created. Without these experiences, the photos would have no meaning. Everyone’s life is different, and the things we can experience are limited. Yet, I hope my work awakens feelings or memories hidden deep within the subconscious. This kind of synchronicity when sharing art is ideal.
Pinhole cameras don’t have finders; they intake light from a small, pin-sized hole. Therefore, when taking a shot, you don’t look into the finder like an ordinary camera. I see everything and feel everything for each shot.
Recently, I’ve been mesmerized by the northern lights. When I saw them for the first time, I couldn’t do anything but cry as I was overwhelmed by the natural phenomenon. Our lives exist thanks to the earth and its creations. We can see amazing things thanks to the universe. The more I learn about the northern lights, the stronger I realize that we live on a planet. I am thankful for being alive and I hope this is reflected in my work. We all can live thanks to nature.
*No photos have been modified nor multiply-exposed.
*All photos have been taken on film and printed on silver salts.
*A pinhole camera is just a box with a hole. The film is exposed to air and lights directly.
*My camera and film literally feel everything there with me for each shot.
translated by K. Hirama