When cancer suddenly destroys a close relative, we all have different ways of grieving. For Yui Takahashi, a young Japanese photographer, it is through her art and profession that she will face this difficult reality in a way that is as original as it is challenging. For good reason, she will dive into her late mother’s wardrobe to soak up the fabrics of an entire existence. A touching meeting made in Tokyo that we share with you.
Touched by the sensitivity of his approach, we met Yui Takahashi, a 28-year-old Tokyo photographer during our interview (32 today!). It is her very personal story, having led her to photography, that invites us to meet her today. Ten years ago, Yui heard terrible news: his mother had cancer. Dazzling, it wins a few weeks later, leaving a gaping chasm in his family and his heart. ” For 4 years, I refused to accept reality, always postponing mourning until later. I did everything not to think about it. »She explains. One of the most painful challenges that this abrupt disappearance placed on him was parting with his mother’s many personal items and clothes.
In Japan, it is customary to pass on certain clothes, including kimonos, to future generations. They are also designed with this intention, most often containing excess tissue in anticipation of repair. A memory then crosses Yui’s mind. When she was a child she used to play in her mom’s wardrobe. Nostalgic for a carefree era, she remembers the unique smell and the special touch of these clothes which still carry the story of a lifetime. While a photography student at Tokyo College of Photography, he got the idea to realize a series of self-portraits in the heart of this place rich in memories, by wearing this inherited treasure so symbolic: the clothes of a lifetime. She then takes the courage to reopen this forgotten wardrobe for 4 years.
However, the beginnings of the project take a sadly unexpected turn. ” As I started this series, it was my grandmother’s turn to suddenly leave this world. The shock is twofold. Here is the artist suddenly projected into the universe of another important member of his family. In all logical consequences, Yui spontaneously expands his project and his pictures to his grandma’s clothes, exploring the generational differences across these to his own, while pursuing a dual process of mourning.
Yui’s photographs give off a very special, indescribable atmosphere. While she explains her motivations to us, we feel in her voice all the depth of her approach. Not only do his pictures offer a look at Japanese dress fashion over three generations, but they question at a higher level about this void that we leave after life, the ephemeral character of existence and how the people we love are going through this sometimes brutal departure.
Because what Yui seeks to arouse is above all the exchange. “Through my exhibitions, I discover that many people have similar experiences and many of them do not have the opportunity to talk about it around them for fear of generating a sentiment considered negative in Japan. Thus, many people come to talk to me about it spontaneously. “ Thanks to his photographs and the exchanges they generate, the artist opens a communicational door too often closed in Japan. So the tongues are loosened, and an exceptional exchange occurs.
” Art has allowed me to organize my feelings, overcome regrets and finally accept his departure to find serenity. »She confides to us. She hopes that this experience will encourage other anonymous reading these lines to explore the lives of missing family members to symbolically revive their image and memory. Today, for Yui, mourning and grief have turned into curiosity. With an optimistic look, always smiling, Yui Takahashi sets off to explore places his mother treads across Japan, recreating the portraits from the family album in similar places.
We now leave you with these few intimate shots from her first series (mom’s wardrobe).
(Archive 2016). All images @ www.yuitakahashi.net
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