Sunday, April 9, 2017

Mayumi Suzuki’s Photographs

Photos 'through eyes of tsunami dead' taken with damaged lens

The Asahi Shimbun  by REI KISHITSU/ Staff Writer  April 9, 2017

A photograph of Mayumi Suzuki’s friends holding candles near her parents’ home in Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture, on March 11, 2016. It was shot using her father’s damaged lens. (Provided by Mayumi Suzuki)

Mayumi Suzuki feels she is tapping into the spirit world with her haunting photography using a camera lens that belonged to her father, who vanished in the 2011 tsunami.

Using the damaged lens, she has captured vague figures and unusual shadowy landscapes in Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture, a town that was devastated in the catastrophe.

When she was shooting in a coastal area where many tsunami victims were found, she felt her work was manifesting “the scenery the dead were seeing.”

“(During a photo shoot) I felt as if I was having conversations with my parents and other dead people,” Suzuki recalled. “I think my father would be happy (with my project).”

Suzuki, 39, lost both her parents in the tsunami, and her father, Atsushi, then 72, and mother, Katsuko, then 66, are still missing.

The grieving daughter found some of Atsushi’s photographic gear near her parents’ house and kept it. The equipment was soaked in seawater and covered with mud.

A lens with a Copal shutter that belonged to Mayumi Suzuki's father, Atsushi, who vanished in the massive 2011 tsunami spawned by the Great East Japan Earthquake. (Provided by Mayumi Suzuki)

Suzuki, who lives in the coastal town of Zushi, Kanagawa Prefecture, frequented Onagawa as a volunteer photographer as she wanted “to do something for my hometown,” but she never thought of using her father’s gear.

Four years had passed since the disaster when she finally picked up the lens her father had fondly used with a large format camera. It was one of his favorite pieces of equipment. She felt Atsushi’s spirit dwelling within the lens and decided to photograph her hometown using it.

It was a lens with a built-in Copal shutter, but the mechanism was broken and the shutter would not shut. Sand also remained in the lens but it was still usable to some extent. She used her hand as a shutter and controlled the exposure time by placing and removing her hand over the lens.

As daytime shots can easily be overexposed, Suzuki usually worked at dusk or night, counting the seconds of exposure.

Yumi Goto, a curator who specializes in photography, praises Suzuki’s work, saying, “All of Suzuki’s story is condensed in the photographs.”

She held an exhibition at Reminders Photography Stronghold gallery in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward in March.

She is scheduled to participate in a photography festival in New Zealand in June, and to exhibit in Australia in 2018.

Mayumi Suzuki (Photo by Rei Kishitsu)

See more of Mayumi Suzuki’s  work HERE


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