Monday, January 7, 2008
Shiho Fukada - A Different Kind Of Briefcase
Shiho Fukada's ability to immerse herself in the stories she photographs is launching her career. It's a far cry from the Tokyo businesswoman her father thought she would become.
Shiho Fukada speaks with an accent about which she's shy; it conjures an image of a young, diminutive Japanese woman—which makes no sense when you see her photography. Her bold, stunning images depict stories in exceedingly dangerous environs. Fukada's career is like that. She's a photographer for whom the rules don't apply.
Ironically, it was the language issue that was, in part, responsible for her pursuing photography. “I gravitated toward photography,” she says, “[because] it doesn't matter if I speak English well.”
Fukada passionately loves to tell stories visually. Her work is incredibly compelling in the way that she becomes a part of the environment that she's shooting. This provides uncommon, almost uncomfortable access for the viewer. For her subjects, that access is granted much more through Fukada's attitude toward them rather than the awkward juggling of dialogue.
Her approach is one of sincere gratitude toward the people who let her into their lives. This serves as a brilliant social bridge that creates an immediate trust. If you try to honestly become part of the lives you're photographing, it diminishes any sense of objectification that the camera can sometimes cause. Given the intimacy of Fukada's imagery, it's easy to see that she's onto something. When she tells me that she picked up a camera for the first time six years ago, I have to pause for a second for a reality check.
Through The Jungles You Can Go, In Books
An adventurer at heart, Fukada has no inhibitions about the environments to which she's exposed when shooting her stories, many of which are inherently dangerous. A story about child labor in Bangladesh put Fukada in the middle of hazardous chemical conditions. Another story on ostracized transgender males in India had her navigating a shanty encampment in a destitute area of the city. Fukada's willingness to travel where most would fear to tread is a realization of a dream that started with photography books.
The fashion company where Fukada worked always was in a frenetic state, preparing for New York's annual fashion week. Officemates raced past Fukada's cubicle, totally unaware that she often was lost in a mini-safari. Fukada was addicted to editorial photography. Escapism was provided by a photography book on the African continent.
In spite of her formal education in Japan as an English major and her career path as an account executive in fashion advertising, Fukada was feeling the pull of visual storytelling. Her desire to make a transition to videography or photography, however, was muddled by her father's happiness that she had become a successful businesswoman, an expectation that he had for his daughter ever since she was a child.