Image © Kyoko Hamada.
Kyoko Hamada has been selected as one of BJP's 20 photographers to watch in 2013
Author: British Journal of Photography
14 Jan 2013 Tags: Ones to watch
Japanese-born photographer Kyoko Hamada describes her subjects as “ordinary people and objects, stylised and staged into subtle quiet moments dealing with self-referentiality and various metaphors”. Pineapple Under the Bed, a work in progress, seems to be composed entirely of these subtle quiet moments, yet layered within a personal narrative.
That narrative stems from a conversation Hamada recently had with her mother, who moved to the US with the rest of the family when the photographer was a teenager. “My grandmother, who was living in an old person’s home, had received a pineapple as a gift, and for some reason she put it under her bed. No one was aware of it until the nurses asked her, ‘What is that terrible rotten smell?’ Afterwards, I kept visualising the image of the decaying pineapple that went unnoticed by this elderly woman who slept above it.”
The Brooklyn-based photographer was also surprised to learn that her grandmother, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, began reconstructing her bad memories, such as that of her unhappy marriage, into good ones and, “at 87 years old, she was creating a new reality for herself”.
These notions of decay, reality and invisibility form the basis of the series. Most of the imagery was shot while Hamada was doing an artist’s residency in Iceland, and the sterile but evocative scenes depict fervently scribbled-on walls, an arm infected with a rash, and a stack of sugar cubes positioned in the sun. “I started looking beneath the simple surface of things in search of clues or pieces of a puzzle, with the hope of gaining some understanding, and to empathise with these things that I will never fully comprehend.” These still lifes form half of the overall series; the other half sees Hamada transforming herself into an old woman – with makeup, wigs and charity shop clothes – going about her daily life in an attempt to explore her own growth and decay.
Image © Kyoko Hamada.
This is undoubtedly a body of work that Hamada will continue to develop and layer with meaning: “I keep finding myself unintentionally making still lifes that seem to contain a subtler, perhaps more mysterious, story than what is visible at first glance. Likewise, some pictures that were intended for the series just don’t fit,” so Hamada ended up removing some pieces and adding others. “Since I have no specific deadline for this body of work, I find myself continually coming back to it.”
Hamada, who also shoots commercial and editorial work and is represented by Bill Charles agency, sees the ideal output for the project as being edited and sequenced to form a vague narrative and published as a book. She sees this process as “equally or even more involved than creating the pictures themselves”. For the time being, however, Hamada is happy for the images to be seen here and online, and relishes comments she receives from strangers. “It is a nice reminder that these quiet photographs have a language of their own, independent of me and my intentions.”
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