Japanese photographer Yukari Chikura (地蔵 ゆかり) was shortlisted in the Professional Landscape category of the 2014 Sony World Photography Awards and she recently won the 2017 Steidl Book Award Asia with the project "Fluorite fantasia (looking for my father...)".
Chikura was an artist in residence of Rokko International Photography Festival in 2015 and her photograph was selected as "IPA Best of Show photographer 2013" (Lucie Foundation). Now she is going to publish the book 'Zaido', a record of this 1,300-year-old Japanese ritual festivity of the same name.
Your series ‘Frozen World’ was awarded in the 2014 Sony World Photography Awards, can you tell us more about it?
Landscapes as seen from the sky are something that always manages to surprise me in new ways, to retain a certain novelty and mystery. Aerial landscapes of ice particularly fascinated me, but up until that point, I hadn’t really taken any aerial photos. I had just started my journey as a photographer and really wanted to try my hand at something new, to challenge myself.
I was in mid-air, on my way to the Sony World Photography Awards, when I looked down and my heart was stolen by the scenery, the true art of nature before me. It was as if it were unconscious, as if I were shooting while in a dream.
When I saw the scene, this art of nature, words started flooding into my mind: “BIRTH, PROPAGATION, STABILISATION, CHAOS, FRAGMENTATION, GENESIS, METEMPSYCHOSIS.”
I wanted to convey these messages I had received from nature. To me, these are the metaphors of the human world.
When I saw this landscape, it reminded me of the ice age. Some scientists have apparently said there is a “mini ice age on the way, the sun has 'gone to sleep' and it could cause temperatures to plunge.” I don’t know if this theory is true or not, but I do think our lives are threatened by pending natural disasters, but at the same time we are protected by nature. I will never forget the feeling of awe and appreciation for nature. I would like to show the beautiful "Art of Nature". And, I would like to hope that people consider the various environmental issues that earth is facing, not only its beauty.
Describe your involvement in the awards and how it has benefited you?
I have had a lot of exposure thanks to the Sony World Photography Awards It also planted the seeds for many hopes and dreams. The encounter with the wonderful members and artists of the awards in London has truly become an irreplaceable experience for me. To be able to be shown at the renowned Somerset House, something I had dreamed of, made me extremely happy as well. I was blessed with a chance to see some excellent works; I was deeply inspired and given the energy to create new works.
What have you been up to since then?
After that I worked on several projects, and I was blessed with various opportunities to take part in exhibitions and collections both in Japan, and overseas. At the same time, I also started participating in workshops and portfolio reviews and making photo books.
You have experienced a series of tragedies, including your father’s sudden death, your own critical accident, and the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, How have all of these impacted on your photography?
It was hard to break this vicious circle of suffering, but I was fortunate enough to meet people through the photos I took and photography as a whole, who helped me get the courage to live again.
You record the 1,300-year-old Japanese ritual festivity known as Zaido, how did you become interested on this topic?
After my father’s sudden death, my own critical accident and the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, I recall how my father came to me in a dream with the words: “Go to the village hidden deep in the snow where I lived a long time ago.” And so, with camera in hand, I set off on a restorative pilgrimage to northeast Japan (the first of numerous journeys). I arrived at the village, surreally silver in the snow and mist, and there discovered ZaidoAIDO, where inhabitants from different villages gather on the second day of each new year and conduct a ritual dance to induce good fortune.
You recently won the STEIDL book award, can you tell us more about it? Your book will be published by STEIDL soon. Can you give us some insights?
It was actually the photo book created at the first photo workshop "RPS Masterclass" with which I was able to win the STEIDL Book Award.Thanks to this, I am currently working with the legend that is Gerhard Steidl on my photography book. I was deeply impressed by Mr. Steidl’s enthusiasm when it comes to photo books; it was there even in the smallest details such as the paper smell. I truly believe that Zaido’s fantasy world and story will become a beautiful, precious book by STEIDL.