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Ishiuchi Miyako and postwar Japan

The work of Japanese photographer Ishiuchi Miyako lies at a crossroads between the personal and the political, the fictional and the documentary. She has been interested in the subject of postwar Japan, particularly the impact of American occupation and Americanization on her native country, for the past four decades.

Miyako was born in 1947 in Kiryu. She grew up in Yokosuka, where the United States had set up a naval base just a few years before she was born. As a young person, she disliked the prevalence of American culture in the city. In the 1970s, nearly two decades are she first lived there with her family, the artist returned to her hometown armed with a camera, taking photos as a kind of catharis. The Yokosuka Story series of photographs that resulted speak of solitude, desolation, and pain.

In another series, entitled Apartment, Miyako went in search of tumbledown apartment buildings, like the one her family inhabited when she was growing up. For this evocative series, she documented cramped living conditions and derelict buildings in Tokyo.

Ishiuchi Miyako studied textiles at Tama Art University in Tokyo in the 1960s, before later adopting photography as her primary mode of artistic expression. A retrospective of her work was held at the J.Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles earlier this year.

Photo: Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947). Yokosuka Story #58, 1976-1977. © Ishiuchi Miyako.