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Spring came suddenly, here where I live.
Week after week it had been cold—and then, one day at the beginning of March, it felt like late May. The cherry trees that line my morning walk bloomed at a record early date. So did the tulips. Our neighborhood baseball field reopened after months of renovation, and the sounds of batting practice again filled the air.
Spring is a time for beginnings. This month, my friend Chiaki Shahani opened a new pottery gallery, Petal Kamakura.
Chiaki curates pottery made by artists from throughout Japan. The pieces are crafted by hand using traditional techniques specific to different regions of the country. Each reflects the maker’s personal aesthetic, yet all the pieces feel comfortable and approachable, in line with Chiaki’s style and vision.
On a bright April morning, I went to visit and to talk with Chiaki. She is at home in Kamakura and her gallery is next to the train station there, but she travels frequently, to meet pottery artists and to understand their work. She told me stories about each piece that caught my eye—how the artist obtained the clay, for example, or how the piece was fired.
We also discussed how different items might be used. A long slender dish might be equally suitable for serving sushi or for a spread of cheese. These are items not simply to admire, but to be used, to be a part of a daily table, to make a home with.
Below are some cups I took home from my visit. They were made by Yagihasha Noboru, who works in Shiga prefecture. Drinking from one, I find myself noticing its small details: how its colors catch the light, how it feels in my hand. As I do, I relax and begin to also pay more attention to the world around me.
If you want to learn about Japanese pottery, or if you are looking for something beautiful for your own home, do visit Petal Kamakura if you can. Or, reach out to Chiaki—she speaks both English and Japanese. The gallery’s information can be found on its Instagram page.
A recent photobook I love that addresses the details of home life is Small Myths, by Mikiko Hara. Hara photographs with a German camera from the 1930s that doesn’t have a viewfinder, so she must instinctively point and shoot. She is known for her street portraits, but in this book she mixes those in with photographs of her family and home life, and a few of her personal stories about the same.
There is a sense of sadness running and loss running through Hara’s book, no doubt informed by her husband’s early death from cancer. But also a sense of wonder as if, in the aftermath of that loss, even the smallest of encounters can take on a mythical form.
I admit, I’ve been thinking about the concept of home quite a lot lately. I sense that it is because more and more this place I live feels like home and not just a place I am staying.
“This place I live” . . . I don’t mean only my apartment, but I also don’t mean Tokyo as a whole. This metropolitan area of 37 million people is simply too vast and too varied. What feels like home is the small district in which I live.
Although it is in the heart of Tokyo, it is a quiet neighborhood of hills, temples, parks, and shopping streets, quite different from the crowded streets of Shibuya or Shinjuku. Because I know it well, the light and the rhythm of life and the small details of its street, it is where all of my best photographs have been taken. But I feel there is much more to say about it. My intention is that this year, here is where I will do all of my photography.
I am happy to be offering a limited number of one-to-one photography workshops, shooting together with me in my neighborhood. Certainly, I can provide technical instruction as needed. However, my primary focus, should you join me, will be on helping you develop your own eye for details. If you would like to learn more, please be in touch.
I hope you are enjoying the season, wherever it is you call home.
P.S. I am honored that several of my photographs were used earlier this year in the materials for an academic conference organized by The [F]law at Harvard Law School. I am really impressed with what this student group is doing. If you are interested in issues of law, corporate power, and social injustice, check them out.
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