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Paolo Patrizi March 28, 2013

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Japan.
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Junior Sumo wrestlers circle the ring. Tokyo, 2009.

Paolo Patrizi (b.1965, Italy) began his career in London working as a photo assistant. While doing freelance assignments for British magazines and design groups he started to develop individual projects of his own. His photographs have been published in The Observer Magazine, Stern, Panorama, Corriere della Sera, GQ, Vanity Fair, The Sunday Times, The Guardian and Geo among others. Paolo has won several awards with the Association of Photographers of London, The John Kobal Portrait Award, World Press Photo, The Sony World Photography Awards, The Anthropographia Award for Human Rights and POYi. His photographs are part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

About the Photograph:

“Watching these big men tossing each other around the dohyo it is difficult to see that the mental and spiritual side of the sport are more important than the body. It takes enormous mental strength to maintain a winning edge. If they can’t get in the right frame of mind, they can’t win. Training is a vital part of the lives of wrestlers. This starts early in the morning, around six with the lowest rank supervised by slightly senior wrestlers. The regular form – ‘Moshiai-Geiko’- is that of a succession of bouts, with the winner staying in the ring and choosing his next opponent. It follows that a good wrestler gets more training.”

“When the time allotted is almost up, seniors get into the ring one at a time and give individual Bustukari-Geiko, which consists of the juniors charging from outside the ring and trying to push the senior right across the other side. The sport-ritual of Sumo is dear to the Japanese because it reflects in microcosm many of the values that Japan holds dear. Japanese society places enormous importance  on rank and hierarchy and the world of Sumo does the same. Japan is a nation that cherishes rules and respects authority, and in sumo too this tradition is unyielding. Sumo is one of the most ancient expressions of Japanese culture inspired by the Samurai code of honor with champions regarded as national heroes. The Rishiki, with their 17th century Samurai-style hairdos, are expected to show stoicism. Winners in Sumo never feel or express self-satisfaction and losers never complain. At the end of a bout the Rishiki bow respectfully to each other and step silently down from the ring.”

Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert October 29, 2012

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Anti-nuclear protest. Tokyo, Japan 2011

Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert (b. 1969, Scotland) received the gift of a camera on his 13th birthday. A few years later he subsequently became a UK based freelance photographer for editorial, corporate and NGO clients. His work has appeared in TIME, National Geographic, Italian Geo, Le Figaro, Der Spiegel, The Guardian, The Sunday Times, and many others. For the past 12 years Jeremy has been one of the principal photographers for Greenpeace International. For the past nine  years he was based in Tokyo but has recently relocated to Scotland. His assignments have taken him to over 40 countries and his personal and commissioned work has been widely published and exhibited in Europe, USA, and beyond. Jeremy is one of the three founding members of Document Scotland, a collective aimed at promoting documentary photography within Scotland.

About the Photograph:

“It was another anti-nuclear protest in Tokyo against TEPCO- the owners of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant which suffered multiple explosions and meltdowns in the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The TEPCO plant operators  had through various investigations, panels and inquiries, been found to have been negligent in their disaster response and as such the nuclear disaster was put down to being a man made catastrophe and not a direct result of the earthquake or tsunami, although they obviously played their part. The anti-nuclear demonstrations were frequent in Tokyo at this time but sadly were usually small in number of participants, but I attended as many as I could, to show my support but also to continue documenting what I thought was still an important story. The nuclear legacy of the Fukushima disaster will remain for a long time, and it was important that the protests be seen and heard.” (more…)

Andrew Burton September 28, 2012

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The Kikawada family praying together at the destroyed remains of their house. Rikuzentakata, Japan 2011

Andrew Burton (b. 1987, USA) is a freelance photojournalist and multimedia producer based in New York. His work has been published in and distributed through The New York Times, Newsweek, TIME, Reuters, USA Today, CNN and The Oregonian, amongst others. He has a degree in journalism with a focus in photography from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Prior to becoming a photographer Andrew interned at Getty Images and completed a fellowship with the Carnegie and Knight Foundation. His work has been honored with awards from POYi, the Hearst Foundation and the College Photographer of the Year. He was a student at Eddie Adams XXII and has also been selected for private workshops at VII Photo Agency, and the 7th UNESCO Youth Conference.

About the Photograph:

“This image was made on March 20, 2011 nine days after the earthquake and tsunami had struck the coast of Japan. In those first days after the tsunami it had been hard to find people returning to their homes — the government had quickly set up refugee centers and were banning locals from heading back to their homes. I was traveling with two other photographers and a reporter, and most of the photos we had been making were of search and rescue crews, barren landscapes and the ruins of various towns. We were nearing the end of another long day in the town of Rikuzentakata when I came across the Kikawada family— at this point, they were the only local people I had seen return to their home.”

“I approached them quietly, obviously this was an extremely sensitive time, and I knew there would probably be a language barrier. To my surprise, they were immediately welcoming, as is the case in many of these situations. The family recognized the importance to document what had occurred. They largely ignored me while they went about praying over the home and leaving an offering of oranges, drinks, candy, cookies and fish-shaped cake. After they finished, they explained the house was where the father’s grandmother had died — a victim of the tsunami. Night was quickly descending, they were headed back to the refugee camp and I needed to find the other journalists, so we parted ways, but it was a rare and quiet moment I won’t soon forget.”

Jérémie Souteyrat December 12, 2011

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Nuclear Refugees. Tokyo, Japan 2011

Jérémie Souteyrat (b. 1979, France) graduated as a mechanical engineer in 2001 and soon after began to work as a photographer. His development as a photographer coincided when he went to Japan in 2005, and fell in love with the country. Besides his work in Japan, Jérémiee has documented young Afghan migrants in Paris which  was shortlisted for the Bourse du Talent Kodak. His work has been published in The Guardian, Le Monde, Elle, L’Express  Libération, Le Monde, among others.  In the summer of 2011 his photographs were exhibited at the Festival of Photography in Lodz, Poland. Jérémie is currently based in Tokyo.

About the Photograph:

“This photograph is from a story about Fukushima’s nuclear refugees. It was taken at a public housing unit in Tokyo on April 20, 2011, five weeks after the start of the nuclear crisis.  The Suzuki family came here with the husband’s parents from Iwaki, a city located 40km south of the power plant. The parents’ house –  where they all lived – was destroyed by the tsunami. They decided to flee the area, fearing the effects of radiation on the children. After a few weeks in a refugee shelter in Tokyo, they were able to move into public housing provided by the city of Tokyo. Ryota Suzuki, the husband, must go back to Iwaki to complete his studies, and for one year his wife Kaori will remain in Tokyo with the children. They will receive no financial compensation from TEPCO (the nuclear operator) because their house was outside the 30km evacuation zone.”

Hiroyo Kaneko July 25, 2011

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From the series “Picnics”. Aomori, Japan 2007

Hiroyo Kaneko (b. 1963, Japan) received her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and a BA in French Literature from Maiji Gakuin University, Tokyo. Her work has been exhibited extensively in the United States and Japan at spaces including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Headlands Center for the Arts, the San Francisco Art Commission Gallery, the Nagasaki City Library and the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo. Hiroyo was also a recipient of the Santa Fe Prize for Photography in 2009. She currently resides in San Francisco.

About the Photograph:

“People bask under the cherry blossom trees in the northern part of Japan once a year to gather and enjoy the blooming. The experience imparts a mixture of spiritual uplift and relief.  Flowers blossom and fade within a few days, and then shed their petals. This brief glorious blaze seems to be a reminder of selfless sharing. Since this natural habit is inherited from a distant past, we share these moments over time and space. The sense of sharing suggested by the status of ever-changing is what my photographs try to depict and convey. This series will evolve through the different seasons around the area where I was born. In that part of Japan, people work on apple farms and survive huge snowfalls. I hope to present their humble living through moments of work and leisure, and occasionally, sparks like the blooming of the flowers.”

Anton Kusters October 20, 2010

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The Bath House. Narita, Japan 2009

Anton Kusters (b. 1974, Belgium) has lived in Saudi Arabia, Australia and Japan and currently divides his time between Brussels, Tokyo and New York City. Anton obtained a Master’s degree in Political Philosophy at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium and studied Photography at the Student Art Centre (STUK), and then continued in-depth in the Academy of Fine Arts in Hasselt. In 2001, he started a web and graphic design company and in December 2008, he and David Alan Harvey started BURN Magazine, an online magazine for emerging photographers. In regards to his own photography, he specializes in long term projects, delivering immersive experiences with images, film and words.

About the Photograph:

“I’m exhausted, waiting at the entrance of the tiny bath house at the golf course near Narita. A couple of hours earlier, while we were teeing off, Soichiro told me that playing golf is a good way to really really get to know someone. It’s also one of the first things that Japanese businessmen do, and many business deals in japan are started, and finished, during a game of golf. I feel ever so slightly uneasy knowing that I am, in part, being “measured up” here… but the beauty is that this is a double edged sword: I can do my own measuring too. Tanamoto Kaicho has just finished his round, and arrives at the bath house. He gestures me to follow him in. I enter the first room, where I undress, put my clothes in one of the many little baskets, grab a small towel to scrub and proceed to the bath and shower area. I didn’t win the game of golf… not by a long shot. But somehow I felt that being able to hold my own, and at the same time talk about anything else but business, was way more important that being to focused on winning. It’s almost like the game in and of itself seemed irrelevant… and at the same time very relevant on a different level.” (more…)

Goro Bertz July 28, 2010

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Tokyo 2008

Goro Bertz (b.1980, Sweden) was born and raised in Stockholm and is a self-taught photographer. When he turned 25, he moved to Tokyo in order to devote all his time to photography, especially around areas such as Shinjuku, Kabukicho, Golden Gai and Shin-Okubo. He is also shooting a lot in the countryside north of Tokyo, around a place called Iwama,  a small village and the place where his mother was born and his grandmother and some relatives still live. Goro has been published in various magazines in Sweden and was recently interviewed on the 591 Photography site. He is currently working various part-time jobs in Tokyo that allows him the time to make photographs. Goro is member of the Swedish image bank Folio. This summer he will have an exhibition in Nishiwaki (near Osaka).

About the Photograph:

“For me the art of photography begins with chance and not planning anything in advance. It’s certainly the case with these two photos. The one of the curtain was shot in a small town a few hours by train from Tokyo. This image was meant to be deleted in order to save space on my memory-card. Unfortunately, I deleted the wrong picture just because I was in a hurry. I was pretty inexperienced with digital cameras back then and deleted images quite uncontrollably. For a long time I didn’t care about this picture at all. But after two years I went back and took a saw it again. I started to like it but in some way I didn’t really know how to explain. It just exists and feels disarming. Today it is absolutely one of my favorite pictures.” (more…)

Steven Achiam July 7, 2010

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Sumo wrestlers training, Japan 2007

Steven Achiam (b. 1976, Denmark) graduated from the Danish School of Journalism. His photo stories have been published in newspapers and magazines in The Netherlands, Italy, France, Germany, Denmark and Norway. In 2009 he followed families living with climate change in DR Congo, China, Georgia and Syria. His video shorts awarded him “TV-photographer of The Year” and the website was prized “Multimedia site of the Year” by the Danish Press Photo of the Year. In 2008 he was honored by the Unicef Photo jury for his long term book project about Sumo boys in Japan He has also won a World Press Photo Award in 2007 for his story on the living conditions of a migrant worker in the Kuwait desert. Steve is based in Copenhagen.

About the Photograph:

“Gaining confidence and being accepted are some of the reasons the boys from the Hirigaya Sumo Club practice Sumo wrestling. At age six Shunsuke is motivated to gain strength and get limber through hard training with older boys, who are both gentle and careful to help the young wrestler. Like ballet, Sumo wrestling is a niche among children’s sports in Japan. You find the strongest interest among middle class families outside the major cities, where the Sumo tradition is kept alive. 50,000 boys between the age of 4 to 14 are introduced to Sumo wrestling by their parents. Young wrestlers usually have an average body build and although obesity is not a structured part of the training program, at a later point being obese comes as a slight advantage. The old Japanese see Sumo as a school of life while the modern Japanese turn their eyes to baseball.”

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Ikuru Kuwajima December 16, 2009

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Japan.
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Draft horse racing, Hokkaido, Japan 2007

Ikuru Kuwajima (b.1984, Japan) studied journalism at the University of Missouri, Columbia from 2003 to 2007 and interned at a several newspapers. In 2007, he moved to Bucharest, Romania to work as a freelance photojournalist. He worked as a contributor with a news agency Media Fax, ZUMA Press and Grazia Neri. His coverage included Kosovo’s independence. He also published a story about the Danube Delta’s fishermen in the National Geographic Romania and Japan. In 2008, he moved to Ukraine to work on long-term projects. He is currently based in the Central Ukraine. Kuwajima is a native Japanese speaker and English-Japanese translator and is proficient in Russian and Romanian. He also contributed as a researcher for an upcoming book about Tokyo’s underground culture.

About the Photograph:

“The picture came was made in Obihiro, Hokkaido in Japan in 2007. Draft horse racing, called Banei Keiba in Japanese, only exists on this northern island of Japan. Draft horses are twice as big as thoroughbreds and drag 1,100-pound sleighs along a 218-yard dirt course. This unique form of racing started about a hundred years ago while the horses were used primarily for farming, but over the years the draft horses have been developed exclusively for racing. When I worked on the project draft-horse racing was almost closed, but large opposition from dedicated fans saved it. It continues in Obihiro and still takes place three times a week.”

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Dagmar Schwelle April 12, 2008

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Japan, Multimedia.
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schwelle_tokyo.jpg
Planet Tokyo: An Encounter, 2007

Dagmar Schwelle was born in Vienna, Austria, and studied law in order to become a diplomat. When she found out that there were less pompous ways to get to know the world she became a journalist instead. After nine years writing for leading Austrian newspapers and magazines she decided that it was time for a career change, went to Vancouver and studied photography. Since 2004 she is based in Germany and works as a photographer. Last year her first book was published, “Them Over There” – a documentary project on divided border towns in Eastern Europe.

About the Photograph:

This photo is part of a multimedia piece on metropolitan lifestyle in Tokyo. It was shot on a weekend when numerous rock bands perform in Yoyogi koen. Their efforts to be cool and/or wild are overly perfect – so it seems to me that the most authentic element of that spectacle is the shyness of the very girlish female admirers.

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