#26 Miyako Ishiuchi

Interview with Miyako Ishiuchi

Miyako Ishiuchi, a receptionist of the 2014 Hasselblad award, is an internationally renowned Japanese photographer. She was born in 1947 and grew up in Yokosuka, which was influenced by a postwar American military base. Her recent work includes pictures of her mother’s remains and personal effects left by those who lost their lives by an atomic bomb fallen to Hiroshima. We interviewed her about her passion to photography, the themes of her photographs and her recent exhibition of Hiroshima in New York.


– For the past few years, you have been renowned as a photographer of personal effects left behind by those who lost their lives by an atomic bomb fallen to Hiroshima. What made you take pictures of these remains in Hiroshima?


I hadn’t had any interest in Hiroshima and had never been there until I started to work on a project of the personal belongings by those in Hiroshima in 2007 for a publishing company.

Before me, many photographers had already taken pictures in Hiroshima and Hiroshima had never come up to me as a theme for my photographs. However, a publisher whom I met at my exhibition of “Mother’s” in Tokyo, which showcased pieces that I introduced at the Venice Biennale as a representative of Japan Pavilion, was eager to have me to take pictures in Hiroshima and his passion changed my mind.

During my first visit to Hiroshima, I just walked around the city to find things that I wanted to take pictures of. Remains that I encountered at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum surprised me since they were completely different from what I imagined. I was impressed by their colors and texture. They were so much more than remains of victims. The gap between my original image of the remains and what I found inspired me, and I started to work on “Hiroshima.”

– What technique did you use to take pictures of the remains at Hiroshima?


I was so nervous about taking pictures of the artifacts left in Hiroshima that I considered buying another camera. But I ended up photographing them in the same way as “Mother’s” by using my hand-held 35mm camera.

When I took pictures for “Mother’s”, I attached my mother’s remains to a glass window and photographed them against the sunlight. There were some items from Hiroshima, of which I wanted to take pictures against the sun but I couldn’t tape them to a window. I had someone make a light box for them so the items to be translucent. The light box was 60 inches long to accommodate one piece, and it was trucked from Tokyo to the basement of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum where I took the pictures. I photographed other items in the sun, in a hallway.

– By taking pictures of things left behind Hiroshima, you brought these archives back to life.