I finished the final master prints of Women of Japan Saturday night. This means that the project is basically finished. I haven’t had time to to take it in yet, but as it starts to sink in, it feels fabulous. In the last 6 months I’ve been feeling very driven to finish.
Women of Japan started 8 years ago on a speaking trip to Japan. It was going to be a bicultural article with perhaps 8 photographs. It evolved into a 39 photo project with complex bilingual text over about 6 trips to Japan in the intervening years. It led to serious friendships, trips to Okinawa and Hokkaido, and of course lots of time on Honshu. I’ve developed a wonderful web of community relationships with folks I’ve been working with there. There’ve been exhibitions and lots of panels shared with the models, and intense conversations with the audiences. And certainly this intimate involvement with Japan has changed me. I’m not completely sure how, but now that the project is artistically complete I’ll have some time to seriously think about it.
The photo below is of Suzuki Ryoko-san, an artist in Hokkaido who I stayed with on my last trip. Her work is impressive but unfortunately there are no good English language links for it.
I spent Xmas in 2004 with her family in Hokkaido. I still have my “silly present” – a yellow rubber duck.
She was extraordinarily helpful. During a hard trip in the mountain area around Asahikawa, I was tramping through the snow, up hill, in the cold, with a huge photography bag on shoulder, on my way to shoot in an traditional Ainu house. She turned to me with a grin and said “Didn’t know you were a documentary photographer, did you?” I will post the portraits I shot there up after the models have seen them.
Her Women of Japan text says:
I heard that it is a very ‘violent’ thing to have one’s photograph taken. When I myself am working as an artist, I can pay too much attention to the figure of the object that I am copying.
Sure enough, I was “robbed of all I have” and was “placed as an object.”
What did I feel? I would like you to read it from my expression.
If you feel something beyond the gaze, you might have already been caught by Laurie’s charming scheme.
Laurie and I, as accomplices, have succeeded in discovering “a violence that has been completed together.”
(This was the hardest text to translate into English because of its complexity.)
I was really happy when she said that she thought the photograph had indeed portrayed her “real” self.
As soon as more women in Japan see the copies of their photos, I’ll be putting them up on the blog. (As you know I never put up photos until the people in the pictures have seen them.)
Just writing this has made the sense of finishing more real. I feel very good tonight.