June 20, 2012 Author: Sumiko Nakaya
Japanese photographer Sumiko Nakaya documents the simple farmers’ life in the small snowy village of Takitani in her new book Family, produced by the gallery and publisher Tosei. Gradually spending more and more time away from her life in the city in order to live and work in the village, Nakaya tells the story of becoming acquainted with the ideas of self-sufficiency, and learning how to care for her house and live off the land. “Working the fields and preparing for the seasons are routine for the villagers – what they perform effortlessly turned out to be a struggle for me as I was immersed in the lifestyle of the city,” she writes in the afterward.
Embedded in the land are the stories of the people that live upon it, and that is perhaps fundamentally the subject of her work: the interaction of the colourful blossoms of food and flowers in summer, the fall harvest, the snakes and monkeys indigenous to the area, and the houses and roads that offer the human constructions which coexist with the nature. The villagers are shown in their various acts of life in this environment, whether washing taro in a stream, shovelling snow, or cleaning gravestones.
The photos are ultimately quiet and simple, sometimes easily seen as snapshots, though the underlying story holds their strength, gentle and articulate. Unfortunately the images themselves are a little pixelated, and occasionally suffer from purple hazing, so it’s necessary to mentally ignore some of the technical weaknesses to appreciate the intent.
Family is available for sale by publisher Tosei-Sha on their web site.
Reviewed by Katherine Oktober Matthews.