"Matagi" by Hajime Kimura

Oct 24, 2016

Hajime is a young Japanese photographer who creates raw black and white images that depict his interests in anthropology. After dropping his architecture career, Hajime enrolled an anthropology lab where his photographic journey began. “Matagi”, the series presented here, is a visual investigation of an indigenous Japanese tribe that lives in the countryside keeping a traditional lifestyle.


Next we want to present an interview that we had with Hajime:


am - First of all, thank you very much for your contribution to our project. Can you please introduce yourself for us?

HK - Hi, thanks for letting me join and contribute with my work. My name is Hajime Kimura, a Japanese photographer based in Germany since March this year. I’ve been working as a freelancer for 10 years after graduating from college. I majored architecture at that time, for 4 years. Now I’ve moved to live in Dusseldorf for a project supported by a grant of the Cultural Affairs Agency of Japan, and this will end in March 2018.


am - How did you start in photography?

HK - As I mentioned, I studied architecture in college as I like designing, drawing and things like that, however reality is not like this. Most of the studies involved mathematics, physics and a bunch of calculation subjects. After this I was fed up with my life, with that messy stuff with which I was not good at. One day I bumped into a friend in the streets of Tokyo, he was a classmate and used to be in the same football club with me. Above all I was surprised about his look, he was totally changed. He gave up playing football and started photographing with a reflex camera that looked super cool. I still remember that we talked in a cafe soon after our encounter. Next day, I also quited the football club in college and started with photography. That is the story of the very beginning about how I got interested in photography. After this, I was taking a lot of images as a hobby, which was very boring though. Meanwhile, I started to travel as a backpacker all over Asia, dropping the college lectures. That was kind of a good excuse to escape reality with a camera.


am - What inspires your work?

HK - My first inspiring encounter occurred when I was 21, during the 3rd year of college and when I enrolled a lab for my thesis. I shifted to anthropology from architecture because a professor told me during the first meeting that he’d allow me to graduate as long as I took pictures of an investigation for the thesis. The professor liked photography a lot. That’s the reason why he took me as a member of the lab. He showed me several photo exhibitions in Tokyo and gave me free tickets. One of the tickets was for the World Press Photo, so I went there. I was not very impressed during the exhibition but I couldn’t help noticing some books in the bookshop, [to the point that] I still remember the titles: “In the American west” by Richard Avedon and “The end of the world” by Peter Beard. I couldn’t by them due to the high price but 2 years later, after graduation, I finally bought them. This was my first inspiring experience, a great story that remains even if years pass.


am - What is “Matagi” about?

HK - This is my first long-term project, working on it for 8 years since 2007. The title Matagi depicts an ancient tribe living around a mountain range in the north part of Japan. The way I knew about them goes back to 2005, in a library of the University. When I was making my thesis I found a book about lifestyles in the Japanese countryside during the 80s. I was surprised about two things: first was that their lifestyle looked so old like from 100 years ago, and the other one was that most of the images in the book were taken only about 20 years ago. Although 2 years passed after university, curiosity still fluttered in my mind. Because I was born and raised in a Tokyo suburb, I had never visited that kind of areas and was never concerned about them until I found them in the book. Contradictorily, the more I bath myself in modern society, the more I am interested in other worlds where people’s daily life has been connected to an indigenous way. I guess that this thought was the trigger towards “Matagi”, I started this project in 2007 with the idea that I just wanted to meet them. At the beginning many villagers didn’t allow me to stay long. I think they are very conservative, however with time I could get along with some villages to be able to stay longer, so I visited them continuously. After 7 years I would say that I can’t understand them completely. I respect their principles that strongly connect them to nature, and I wanted to be a part of them but I realized I couldn’t. There are too many mysteries to be able to understand everything about them and this is what I’d like to represent with the images.


am - Who are your favourite photographers / artists?

HK - As I mentioned before, Richard Avedon and Peter Beard are still inspiring me. Another foreign artist fascinating me is Jacob Lawrence, a US painter. I incidentally found his work “The Migration Series” at MOMA in 2010. That was too shocking to understand. Every image was abstract and not graphic, but in this way it fitted perfectly the context, storyline and his background. I would say that if I wouldn’t know his work at that time, I might not be here. Finally, my favourite Japanese artist is Ichiro Kojima, who passed away more than 50 years ago.


am - How would you describe your photographs in 3 words?

HK - Time, relationship, emotion.


am - When you are not taking pictures, what do you do?

HK - For me it takes a long time to be able to make a picture, this means that I normally spend most of the time not photographing. I have to build a relationship with the subject before I take the pictures. This time includes researching as an important process to me, even if the conclusion is different than I imagined at my starting point.


am - If you could travel and stay in a place for one year, where would you choose to go?

HK - I would say somewhere in South America.


am - Favourite songs / bands at the moment?

HK - I like the songs of Chilly Gonzales.


am - What’s your favourite movie?

HK - “Spiritual Voices”  by Aleksandr Sokurov and "West of the Tracks"  by Wang Bing.


am - What are you reading at the moment?

HK- “Safe Area Gorazde” by Joe Sacco.


am - Do you have any project in mind that could be a personal or professional challenge?

HK - Since April I’m doing a project in former Yugoslavia. I focus on “memories and remains” all over the countries that used to be together at once. The project combines oral histories of people living there and something left after the war in the 90’s including archives of mass media and personal belongings. This project already has too many layers to put everything together. So the challenging thing at the moment is to be more flexible about the perspective when I research and take the pictures on site and to be more objective when I do the postproduction process.


am - Thank you very much for your time and your contribution to analog magazine.

HK - Thank you too.


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