Unfolding Lives in Tohoku
Photographs by Hiroyo Kaneko and Asako Shimazaki
Japanese-born photographers, Hiroyo Kaneko and Asako Shimazaki, both based in San Francisco for more than ten years, will present photographs taken in Tohoku. Kaneko started returning to her hometown, Aomori, the northernmost part of Tohoku, in 2007 for her project, “Picnics.” She has continued that series as well as started two additional projects: “Harvest” and “Snow Shoveling,” using a large format camera with color film. Shimazaki traveled through that area from the late 80s to the early 90s and photographed ruins, nature, traditional places and villages with black and white 35mm film.
Hiroyo Kaneko is originally from Aomori in northern Japan. Despite her re-location to the US, she constantly recalls scenes from her hometown. This part of Japan has a clear and beautiful light that gives images a luminous quality. Although Aomori is regarded as one of the poorest outlying regions in the country, its nature is incredibly rich and well-respected. However, the recent earthquake and tsunami disasters devastated many of the regions’ communities close to the area.
Her on-going projects – New Memories – capture the ethereal quality of the daily activities related to nature in Aomori. In light of the recent earthquake in northern Japan, however, she returned to her old work “Nagasaki Dialog” which is composed of photographs taken in Nagasaki from 2001-2002. Through the project, Kaneko met survivors of the atomic bomb and established friendships. She took their portraits and photographed landscapes inspired by their memories of the natural surroundings during the devastation.
Immediately after the news of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant being compromised and radiation affecting the surrounding communities, Kaneko recalled those people in Nagasaki and their stories of survival. Suddenly a new generation of nuclear survivors were being born as radiation from the reactors in Fukushima affected more and more people in a wider area. The work Kaneko made in this region is now clouded by this catastrophic event, and her recent subjects have become potential victims of trauma.
Kenzaburo Oe, the noted Japanese author, sums up what may be a collective Japanese sentiment in an article from the New Yorker about the current nuclear disaster: "Japanese history has entered a new phase, and once again we must look at things through the eyes of the victims of nuclear power, of the men and women who have proved their courage through suffering.”
Hiroyo Kaneko went back to Aomori this winter to photograph people who live with heavy snowfalls. By capturing the moments of their seasonal routines in a varied, harsh and exquisite environment, she tries to represent the energy of living which continues to evolve while hoping for a world without nuclear power.
As a Japanese-born artist living in the United States, Kaneko believes that she can offer an alternate perspective of this specific culture. Her perspective and location hopefully allows a cross-cultivation of cultural experience that is sensitive to the subject. As the disasters are hitting the home that has continually inspired her photography, Kaneko is compelled to enter a new stage of creation in her work.
Asako Shimazaki traveled this same region twenty years earlier, documenting the rugged and wild shores of northern Japan. Hearing of the earthquake and tsunami, she unearthed her work from that time and has reprinted them for this exhibition. Her images capture a past and a place that doesn’t exist any longer.
This exhibition will coincide with the one-year anniversary of the Tohoku
earthquake and tsunami tragedy. The images of the same region from different
times and approaches will share various perspectives of the artists’ lives and the people’s lives. This may bring us a sense of hope, like a prayer for the victims.
RayKo Photo Center & Gallery is a comprehensive photographic facility, located near the Yerba Buena Arts District, with resources for anyone with a passion for photography. Established in the early 1990’s, RayKo Photo Center has grown to become one of San Francisco’s most beloved photography darkroom spaces; it includes traditional b&w and color labs as well as a state-of-the-art digital department, a professional rental studio, galleries, and the Photographer’s Marketplace – a retail space promoting the work of regional artists. RayKo also has San Francisco’s 1st Art*O*Mat vending machine and a vintage 1947 black & white Auto-Photo Booth.
RayKo Gallery serves to advance public appreciate of photography and create opportunities for regional and national artists to create and present their work. RayKo Gallery offers 1600 square feet of exhibition space and the Photographer’s Marketplace, which supports the work of Bay Area artists, and encourages the collection of artwork by making it accessible to collectors of all levels. The Photographer’s Marketplace offers photography collectors unique and affordable work from artists living and working in the surrounding area.
RayKo Photo Center & Gallery
428 Third Street
San Francisco, CA 94107
Tuesday-Thursday: 10-10 pm
Friday-Sunday: 10-8 pm
*RayKo is located in the SOMA arts district of San Francisco within walking distance of SFMOMA, the Moscone Center, Yerba Buena Gardens, as well as AT&T Ballpark.