Little Box conversation 


Kawara Chan

Hi Kawara, please tell us little about yourself. 

I was born in Kamakura and now live in Tokyo with my husband and children.

When I was a kid, there was a time when I couldn't speak. Being able to have a rich life outside of words during that time had a great impact on me and my life. I was a kid who spent most of my childhood indoors, sketching people passing by my window and playing air guitar while listening to Jimi Hendrix records.

I went to art college to become a painter, but my music career took off and singing became my job. After getting married, I was busy with work and raising my children for a while, but when I started Instagram, I started taking street snaps. My curiosity got the better of me and I found a world where words were not necessary again.

When did your passion for photography begin, why did you become interested in it and why is it important to you?

The first thing that got me interested in photography was the artwork on the vinyl records that we had at home when I was a kid. The 30cm square record jackets are the prototype for my photographic images. I think I liked taking pictures because I had been taking a lot of pictures with "Utsurun desu”(Quick Snap) ever since my child was born. But when I started Instagram, I became more involved in the world of photography.

Ten years ago, when the Great East Japan Earthquake hit, my husband's sister's house was washed away. A year later, at the community center, there were many photos wiped clean of the mud, and everyone was trying their best to find photos of themselves and their families. I thought to myself, ”photographs get stronger as time goes by, don't they?" Since then, I have been able to take pictures of my relatives in the disaster area, and I have also come to realize that I need to take pictures of everything I think and feel.

You live in Tokyo. Please tell us what it is like to photograph there.

I've been living in Tokyo for decades, and I'm really interested in its high potential. I take pictures in my daily life, but there are so many people in my area of activity that I spend much more time observing the people passing by than taking pictures, because sometimes I feel like I am caught in a whirlpool of people.

What is your experience being a female street photographer in Japan? Do you think it is more difficult or easier as a female?

I've never been particularly conscious of being a female street photographer, and Japan is a safe country, so I've never been in danger. What I personally find difficult is the pain of holding my camera and equipment for a long time and the lack of physical strength. I lose my concentration, so I can't concentrate on shooting.

Have you had any difficult confrontations on the street when photographing people?

Only once. A person actually told me “Please don’t take photos of me.”

Do you only practice candid photography or do you try other forms?

Besides candids, I also take portraits as a project for festivals and events. I also continue to take pictures of my family and the people around me in Sanriku after the earthquake .

I'm also working on a collage of photos using the time I have at home during the pandemic.

You are a member of Void Tokyo. What is it like to be part of a collective and what do you think the advantages are?

We will be celebrating our fifth year in 2021. So far, we have been self-sufficient in everything except printing, and our members have managed everything from planning to management.

I am constantly inspired by this group of passionate street photographers, and VoidTokyo allows me to experience things that I would never be able to do on my own.

Many street photographers in Japan shoot primarily in black and white. Can you tell us why you think this is?

I am surrounded by many street photographers who work in color as well as black and white. I think it's a matter of personal choice as both have their own appeal. I use black and white when I want to express light and shadow, shapes and textures.

Tell us a little about your photographic ‘style’ and what do you want to convey to the viewer through your style?

I don't have a particular style in mind, but it is important to me that my photos connect with other people. I want the viewer to connect with them in their memories and feel something.

Tell us the most important thing you have learned from being a street photographer.

The most important thing is to keep shooting with passion.

You can see more of Kawara's work on her instagram account @kawarachan_