Forty years after his death, I discovered a photographer who would later become, not just an inspiration for my own work, but also this very online publication—Lindsay. I stumbled across the photographs of Ihei Kimura (1901—1974) by chance at the Kyoto Museum of Contemporary Art in 2014. Wandering around the space, I slowly became acquainted with Ihei’s past as I took in the one hundred black and white photographs that lined the walls divided by Japanese gardens and washitsus. His images instantly resonated with me. They were unequivocally real; true moments that told a tale of Japan’s history and culture. It is this ability to capture a point in time and really say something through an image that has become central to Lindsay’s vision for photography.
Ihei Kimura retrospective at the Kyoto Museum of Contemporary Art, Kyoto, Japan, 2013. Photo by Beth Wilkinson.
“Fall in love with your subject matters. If not, you can’t take good pictures.”
Considered one of the Japan’s most revolutionary photographers, Ihei Kimura documented the people and places of Japan for over fifty years. His intimate portraits and candid street photography spoke of rural hardship, traditional home life and cultural ritual with honesty. “Fall in love with your subject matters,” Kimura once said, “if not, you can’t take good pictures.” This connection to his subject is palpable. As his lens looks them directly in the eye, it’s as if you’re looking into their soul—you can sense their joy and their pain, you can see their past, you feel as though you know them.
To commemorate the work of one of the greats, in 1975, Asahi Shimbun Company created the Kimura Ihei Award. Each year, the winner is announced in Asahi Camera magazine and on the 17th of March this year, just four days after the launch of Lindsay, Mikiko Hara was granted the 42nd award. This timely coincidence acknowledges another photographer who similarly captures the nuances of Japanese culture, only in this case, one century later.
The Kimura publication I purchased at the museum that day, has since danced between my bookshelf, mantle and coffee table. And each time I flick through those perfect Japanese paper pages, I’m taken back in time to a twentieth century Japan. Ihei Kimura had a phrase he used upon discovering a subject he liked. Now, as I revisit his photographs once again, I might just quote Kimura himself and say, “Isn’t that in the best of tastes?”
Izumi, Akita, 1952. Photo by Ihei Kimura.
Oumagari, Akita,1953. Photo by Ihei Kimura.
Mother and child, Uchiotomo, Omagari, 1959. Photo by Ihei Kimura.
Omagari, Akita, 1953. Photo by Ihei Kimura.
Ushigome, 1940-41. Photo by Ihei Kimura.
A bride, 1965. Photo by Ihei Kimura.
Mrs. Nakayama, 1949. Photo by Ihei Kimura.
Ginza, Tokyo, 1954. Photo by Ihei Kimura.
Asakusa, Tokyo, 1953. Photo by Ihei Kimura.
Geisha, Asakusa, Tokyo, 1957. Photo by Ihei Kimura.
A geisha and a man, Ponto-cho, Kyoto, 1966. Photo by Ihei Kimura.
River-opening Festival, 1953. Photo by Ihei Kimura.
A geisha applying make-up. Photo by Ihei Kimura.
Portrait of Ihei Kimura, 1956. Photo by Takeyoshi Tanuma.