Photographing Japan

maps

“Everybody’s face tells you about the society they live in, and what they’re feeling inside. Faces are maps.” ~ Sue Ford.

People ask why
I photographs strangers:
train people,
school kids
and people on the street.

I don’t think of them as strangers.
These faces are Japan.

The Japanese live by a code of conduct
held in place by a spiders web of obligations.

i.
Whether saying hello or good-bye,
most greetings are a version of I’m sorry.

ii.
When moving into a new home
you buys gifts for your new neighbours.
The gift itself is unimportant.
Only the message matters:
“Hello. We’ll do our best to be quiet,
to respect you. To live harmoniously beside you.”

iii.
When asking someone to a gathering you realize
that even though they’ve said yes, they actually mean no,
you must begin the gentle cutting
of the invitation thread.

iv.
Regardless of how crazy or drunk another person is,
you do not comment or call attention to this behaviour.
You act as though this violation of the rules
is not happening. You look the other way.

We foreigners learn to observe these rules
but it’s not natural, not written in our DNA.
We lack centuries of this story shaping us.

When living here is hard work, my face shows it.

With the Japanese,
mostly their faces
are calm
like water
but sometimes the sorrow
or joy
gets through.
Ripples appear.

When I photograph them,
I photograph Japan.

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