Saturday, 4 July 2009

Herbie Yamaguchi

Posted by Marcia

I went to a photography exhibition in Kawasaki City Museum, just a few minutes away from home today. The visit was completely unplanned. This morning I went to the local library to get some old books from the 50s that talk about mixed Japanese people. On the way out I saw a poster on this portrait exhibition by a photographer called Herbie Yamaguchi. The name caught my attention because at first I thought “could this photographer be Hafu?”. Although as it turns out, Herbie was a nickname given to him when he lived in London many years ago.

So, as the exhibition was taking place only 20 minutes away from home on foot I decided to make a visit. Coincidentally as soon as I arrived at the Museum I learned that there was going to be a talk by Herbie himself in 10 minutes time. This must be fate….. Off I went, to see his work briefly before listening into what Herbie had to say.

What marked my mind was his subtle message. He talked how he was ill when he was young (elementary up to high school period) and he used to get bullied. He described how he saw the “kitanai” from a young age. He never felt confident.

But one day he encountered a school friend being very kind to him – he saw something very special through her eyes. He goes on to explain, perhaps he could see something extraordinary in her eyes precisely because of his bullying experience at a young age. He says if he was a popular handsome boy he would have never noticed in the beauty she possessed. Now I understand, Herbie’s work captures the kindness, the beauty, the thoughtfulness of humankind.

Herbie started photography when he was in the 2nd year of Junior High School. When he was 23 years old he moved to London, where he says he learned how to love himself. There was no need to be anybody else. His friends recognized his beauty. He could be himself, be confident and happy.

Since he saw plenty of the ugly side of human being, his wish was to portray the niceness of people. His gentle approach can be seen in all his photographs. Whilst his photographs are wonderfully composed, his soft touch allows the viewer to get absorbed, as if under the influence of “kindness”.

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