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My children are not only my little darlings but off-shoots of myself. When I look at them, I have a strange feeling - as if I am watching myself re-living my life. What I want to show is their “living form”.
Children always act more than I expect. The inspiration for my photography comes from this sort of behavior. Though I direct some of my photographs, in most cases I take pictures of my children just as they are. When I take photos of my children, the important thing is to maintain an objective perspective. Not too close, but also not too far away, as if I am watching them from behind. Something close to mere observation, I think. Obeying this rule gives the photos a universal quality. I believe that this universality is necessary to communicate their living forms to someone else.
My photos are the best gift for their future. They will be a time machine for them. So I want to take photos that they will feel something when they grow up.
When I was a child, my mother occasionally gazed at me this way. Though I had some awareness of it, I pretended not to notice because I think I felt a little embarrassed. But now, I can understand how she felt because I, too, sometimes gaze at my children as my mother did. Nothing illustrates the future for me like my dear children. I wonder if they feel the same thing I felt when my mother gazed lovingly at me. I hope that they do.
Although photographers usually tend to want to snap pictures at certain specific moments, children don’t smile or cry all the time. Rather, they don’t have any special facial expression much of the time. I want to use photography to keep their living forms in that day-to-day world. This way, the highly expressive faces that they occasionally make will look more life-like, and will produce photographs that we will never get tired of looking at.
For me, taking photos is knowing myself. By looking at the world through a view finder, people can see what’s happening in front of them more objectively. In addition, we can remember what we were feeling and thinking about in those moments by looking at the photos. In this way it is possible to discover aspects of ourselves which we never knew existed before. And my feeling is that this repetition of thought is what constructs my world.
For previous generations, the film camera was simply taken for granted. Everyone loaded their cameras, got their films developed and photos printed by photo studios. It was an era when people poured their energy into photography for its own sake.
However, while the number of snapshots has increased due to the spread of digital cameras and mobile phones, I feel that we are gradually losing that experience of absorption in photography itself. Recent cameras have become ever easier for people to use and have a wide variety of functions besides just taking photos. If it becomes no longer necessary even to focus my camera on an object with my own hands, I wonder what the photography of the future will be.
In film photography, you will certainly experience a feeling of excitement while you wait for your photos to develop. Perhaps you fear that you may not have taken the photo skillfully. Therefore, waiting to know if you succeeded or not is inconvenient and troublesome. But this waiting time is necessary. That is to say, it is a stance we take toward photography.
The reason we like film cameras is that film somehow creates an appealing atmosphere. At the same time, however, digital cameras are convenient and have many useful functions. Both approaches are valid are worthwhile. But this is not exactly what I want to talk about here. I do not simply want to revisit the now-familiar debate over film vs. digital photography.
Photography has the potential to capture the amount of time and conscious effort we put into it. It has nothing at all to do with analogue vs. digital methods. It depends on what you want to take pictures of, and what you aim to do. But if you enjoy photography, I may have a hint for how to think of it and spend your time doing it.
Even when we use digital cameras, we may later notice something different if we can just break the habit of looking at the photos as soon as we have taken them. This is neither meant as criticism of digital cameras, nor as praise of film cameras. I just think that we need to take the time to think deeply about the process of taking photos.
When I see decades-old photos which anonymous people took and left behind, I obtain a definite feeling of “something existed there”. Today as well, when I release the shutter, I hope to take photos like those.
(Translated by Tetsuro Nohara and Peter McCamus)
by Hideaki Hamada