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.
The Bangladeshi daughter, mother and grandmother represent an entire cycle of life in the brothels. For Fukada, it's a remarkable opportunity to illustrate Munnie's future by photographing the lives of the young girl's mother and grandmother. Fukada says that she can almost “see what Munnie will look like in 32 years by looking at the pictures of Munnie's grandmother.” Without the photographs, the story is irresistible. With Fukada's images, the story is a knockout.
Fukada is optimistic that the story will sell eventually and moves onto talking about her recent trip to a political event in Iowa. Unlike most of her other work, these images are in black-and-white and depict the signature intimacy that has become the hallmark of Fukada's style. But unlike her images from India and Bangladesh, the photographs from Iowa have a traditional American feel to them.
“I have to immerse myself in the situation, so I can feel it to shoot the story,” says Fukada. It's this dedication to the story that sets Fukada's work apart. She's in the right place at the right time because she's able to disappear into the environment and patiently wait for the right time.
Fukada always sets out on her assignments with an idea of the story she wants to capture. And every time, the story is “never the same like you imagine.” The brothel story was anticipated to be full of intensity and action. Instead, it became a story of “quiet portraiture.” To Fukada, the assignment always dictates the style. The commercial viability of the project she entrusts to the imagery itself.
Partly because of the language barrier and partly because of her personality, Fukada says that she hardly exchanged any words with the family she was photographing for the Bangladeshi brothel project. Yet she still found a way to capture the story and build a friendship with the grandmother with whom, to this day, she has an ongoing relationship. For Fukada, the camera is a tool of translation and communication. In a way, the language barrier makes Fukada the truest form of objective observer, a quality that comes through in the authenticity of her work. The challenging barrier of language isn't a barrier to Fukada at all—it's an asset and a component to her style, a unique circumstance that could never be emulated or taught. It's the secret to her success that is hers alone.
Shiho Fukada is a storyteller first. Photography wasn't the goal for her; it was the vehicle to realize her passion for telling stories. And that's one of the reasons why her work stands out so significantly. She's totally committed to the narrative. When one talks to her, Fukada is reticent about camera gear or technique, but she's enthusiastic about the lives and lifestyles she has captured. It's a state of mind that has evolved after a decade of shooting, except in Fukada's case, it seems to have been inherent as soon as she picked up the camera.
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