(Mexico City, 1990, IG: @nomiyataeko)
Like Japan, Taeko Nomiya is an island. Born in Mexico to Japanese parents, Taeko learned to interpret the world in Japanese and to explain it in Spanish. Even before gaining a sense of self and before concepts such as “Mexican” and “Japanese” would gain any meaning, Taeko had already developed a dual perception of the world around her. She is very much aware that there is a subtext to everything we encounter, to everyone we meet, and that it is not always apparent to the eye, but it is nonetheless crucial to our parsing of what is in front of us.
That is why she takes double exposure pictures. Because being the Japanese girl who grew up in Mexico while her extended family was in Japan, or being the Mexican girl who visited the uncanny Tokyo all her friends had heard about, but none of them had even visited, Taeko was always overcome by the urge to share her world to someone on the other side of the planet. Then, after shooting the picture, Taeko would invariably discover that, even though the camera had faithfully captured everything that was in front of her, there was a layer of reality that was missing from the pictures.
Taeko is a woman of few words, of no explanations. Maybe because the same insularity that she developed as a result of always being considered a foreigner released her from the need to feel understood. Or maybe the adage was right after all, and if an image is worth a thousand words, each of Taeko Nomiya’s pictures contains more than sufficient explanations already.
(Lima, 1964, IG: @luisokamotope)
For Luis Okamoto, artistic perfection can only be attained through constant, inflexible practice. For Luis, the Japan described to him by his grandfather was a country where nothing was left to chance and that was the key that allowed it in the 19th century to go from a feudal country that used the most rudimentary tools to matching, and in some fields surpassing, European powers and the US within 10 years.
Before going to Japan, Luis used to believe that the basis of Japanese aesthetics was a reverence of symmetry, an unrelenting adherence to uniformity. Then, walking around Tokyo, he would constantly find asymmetry that contradicted his own preconceptions of Japanese beauty, but that always managed to effectively replicate nature. Instead of flawless design, he found a respect for entropy evidenced in the way moss was allow to grow freely, instead of being removed. He found that calligraphy follows the shadows of the trees, and as such, it never follows straight lines.
Luis also says that for him, ancient Peru and Japan are a unique case where two countries in opposing sides of the world develop parallel sensibilities. For him, modern Peru has gone astray and the key to finding its path again lies in restoring that original perception that Japan never abandoned. This exhibition compares some of his old shots of Peru, such as the asymmetrical stones in Machu Picchu, with the walls of Tokyo’s Imperial Palace and those pictures offer an undeniable visual support to that theory.
(São Paulo, 1994, IG: @takeda_marcio)
Japan was never something too tangible or clearly-defined for Marcio Takeda. In his childhood home in São Paulo, his family would speak in Portuguese and eat Brazilian food because his father, who arrived in Brazil as a grown man, set out to blend in rather than stand out in the country. As result, even though Japan has been a constant presence in his life, Marcio grew up with the same references most Westerners have about the country: anime, giggling schoolgirls, robots, people with outlandish hairdos in wacky colors.
The first surprise for Marcio was to find out that Tokyo is as cosmopolitan and diverse as London or New York. That there are people of Asian descent in many shades of brown who are never featured in the pictures. That there are Muslims in Japan. Both Japanese Muslims and Muslims from other Asian countries. That there is a warmth and openness that is seldom mentioned when people describe the Japanese as a society of uniform individuals who are unable to socialize, and who live lives of growing isolation while obsessing about work.
The Japan we see in Marcio Takeda’s pictures shows a diverse, warm, fun society, far-removed from the portrayal we see in Western media and art. After seeing the pictures Marcio took in Tokyo, it is evident that approaching Japan through the eyes of a person who grew up in a country with the diversity of colors, races and flavors there is in Brazil, reveals a Japan that had been there all this time, hiding in plain sight.