Thursday, March 10

Japanese People- Portrait

I am not too sure whether a portrait picture can actually be a portrait if it only became a portrait after seeing the results and deciding that it was…but anyway here goes! These photographs are two of my favorites of people I’ve taken while living in Japan not only this year but also in in the past.

This first photograph is one of my host Okaasan who I lived with in Shiga, Japan two years ago. This was taken in mid summer on a deathly hot day at a theme park called Nagashima Spaland. I really love this photo as firstly, it is one of the only ones I have of my Okaasan by herself. I think she looks really beautiful and quite elegant and when I look at this it brings back a lot of very fond memories that I had while living with her. 
  I also really like this picture because it has a very cultural aspect to it. As I said, this day was extremely hot…38 degrees hot..and as you can see she is still wearing a cardigan. This is one thing I learnt from living with a Japanese family…to show skin, even on one of the hottest days of the year, is still kind of frowned upon by the older Japanese generation. I figured this when I left the house on the very same day in a sun dress and was stopped in my tracks by my host grandmother who demanded I put cardigan on. I don’t point this out in a bad way at all, it is just merely an observation and maybe a comparison to NZ where it is more than okay for people to wear less clothing in such hot weather. 
 Another cultural aspect of Japan this photo brings to mind is the sun umbrella. A lot of Japanese women love the idea of having pale skin. There are products upon products to help maintain or create pale white skin in the Japanese beauty industry, as well as sun umbrellas in abundance! My first meeting with a sun umbrella was in rainy season when I thought I had purchused a normal rain umbrella, at the local station, on the way home on a very wet day. Unfortuantly for me by the time I had arrived home, due to my purchase being a non water proof sun umbrella, I was soaked through. Yes I was the butt of all jokes for quite a while but how was I supposed to know?…it looked pretty and appeared to be what I was after! We get out into the sun and try to tan our skin whenever we get the chance in New Zealand so the idea of it being a sun umbrella never crossed my mind.

This second photograph is of a Japanese girl I have meet at Kansai Gaidai. Her name is Naomi and she is a second year student majoring in English. This was taken after the Kyoto tour, organised by CIE at Kansai Gaidai, at a restaurant called Bikkuri Donkey,, (specialists in Hambaagaa). I really love this photo as, although she has a big chocolate parfait covering her beautiful smile, I really think her eyes are what stands out and what make this photograph a portrait. Some younger dancing students that I taught in New Zealand, just before I left for Japan, swore that on the “Most Important things when Performing on Stage” list, #1 was “Smysing”…or smiling with your eyes. The reason for this was because when you smile with your eyes its deeper than just a facial expression, its also showing a feeling. Happiness. This idea has really stuck with me and when I look at this photo in particular I really think it was a very valid idea that those six and seven year old children had. Of course you could just say Naomi looks extremely happy because she has a huge chocolate desert she has in front of her, but I like to think of it as being a bit more than that…maybe because of the day that had been or the company she was with. Who knows.

1 comment:

  1. You offer an important question. I think a photo taken without the intention of being a posed portrait can become a portrait - I do this all of the time.

    I think you went a bit off track with the albeit interesting commentary about protecting the skin from the sun. I would like to learn more about your host mother.

    I like your discussion of the importance of the eyes with a real smile. Your friend's eyes are a focal point in the photo, but I still wonder if some people might be distracted by the ice cream...


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