This series of colour family portraits now stretches to 25 years and, in this simply designed book (one photo per full page), is combined with some stunning Japanese landscapes. Signed copies.
I was raised by four women: my mother, my grandmother, and two aunts who never married. My mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia when I was a teenager. She became a totally different person overnight; it almost seemed as if the history of her life had been erased. I could no longer have a decent conversation with her. The only way to prove who she had been was with photographs from before she became ill. She has been going back and forth between home and the hospital ever since her diagnosis.
When I was 28, my grandmother died. She was the boss among the four women who raised me and had really played the role of a mother to me because of my mother’s illness. Losing her was like losing my own mother. The loss of a family member made me acutely aware of how much time had passed without my really noticing. I never thought my family would grow older; it seemed to exist in a timeless place. Before my grandmother died, I rarely took pictures of my family. Afterwards I started photographing them every time I went back to Japan to visit. The best days for us became those when my mother, her two sisters, and I went on short trips around Japan. Most photographs in this series were made during these trips. Many of our visits were to places my mother and aunts had been wanting to see since they were young, as my family had hardly ever traveled before my grandmother died. Photographing my family was made possible through collaboration with them. This collaboration became a way for us to strengthen our relationship.
Schizophrenia is a chronic mental illness that causes hallucinations and delusions, including hearing voices. These symptoms the patient experiences seem so real that he/she cannot distinguish them from reality, and these experiences are occasionally accompanied by severe body aches and debilitating anxieties.
I used to think that memories would gradually fade with the passage of time, but even 25 years after my mother’s hospitalization, I often find myself comparing my mother today with the one in my memories. Looking back now, one of the main reasons I moved to New York was because I couldn’t face the fact that my mother had become schizophrenic. However, soon I learned that physical distance would never equal emotional distance; I had a hard time separating myself from my thoughts and emotions about my mother’s mental illness, whether I was in New York or Tokyo.
My mother being diagnosed with schizophrenia was life-changing for both my mother and our family. Having seen it happen to her right before our eyes, we then lived our lives with the feeling that anything could happen to anyone at any time. At a time when the general public is still reluctant to talk about mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, it is difficult to get social support and understanding. It is even harder to get people interested in learning more about schizophrenia. For that reason, I decided to record the time and space that my family and I shared, exploring the universal themes of family, aging, and time’s passage. My family and I are also trying to make up for memories we never had. For me, these photographs are a vehicle that enables me to travel back and forth between the past and the present. The photographs help me to accept the changes that have taken place and those that are yet to come.
- ISBN 13
- Date Published
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