Ishiuchi Miyako: On Mother's



In 2000 Ishiuchi Miyako, one of Japan’s most celebrated photographers, began to take pictures of her mother, then 84, capturing close-ups of her skin, her hair and the scars on her skin. Then she died leaving the artist with her mother’s belongings, which she photographed as a way to “talk to the things she left behind,” to reconcile with her mother. Watch Ishiuchi’s moving presentation of the series.

Throughout her career, Ishiuchi Miyako has used photography as a means of connecting the past and the present, capturing both the physical and the psychological traces of time’s passage.

“My mother was the woman that was closest to me,” says Ishiuchi. “The mother is evidently the person who creates the next generation,” but Ishiuchi decided not to have children herself. Ishiuchi had a difficult relationship with her mother. When she died Ishiuchi “wanted to talk much more with her, but she died so suddenly, that I didn’t make it. And because of that I talked to the things she had left behind,” she states. “I found so much underwear that she had never worn. It is said that underwear is your second skin. From a philosophical point of view. Because is so close to your body. I was impressed that my mother had so many skins – then I took the photos for the ‘Mother’s’ series.”

Ishiuchi also photographed her mother’s makeup and false teeth. “I really felt the sadness of these things. ‘Mother’s’ is in many ways about things left behind. As things left behind by the deceased, not something beautiful, but just garbage. The fate of things that will be thrown out. Things that someone was fond of suddenly become garbage. It’s that moment I try to capture. It is as if some part of my mother is left there. It was as if I took photos of her skin… which I also did.”

When exhibiting the ‘Mother’s’ series at the Venice Biennale in 2005, Ishiuchi felt that her mother’s things belonged to everybody. It became things of all mothers, not just her own.

Ishiuchi Miyako (b. 1947) is a Japanese photographer. In 2005, Miyako represented Japan at the 51st Venice Biennale with her work ‘Mother’s’ (2000-2005). She has been the subject of solo retrospectives at the J. Paul Getty Museum (2015) and the Yokohama Museum of Art (2017), among others, and her work is held in the collections of MoMA in New York and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Miyako’s accolades include the Kimura Ihei Memorial Photographic Award (1979), and the 2014 Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography.

Ishiuchi Miyako was interviewed by Mette Holm in her home in Kiryu, Japan in March 2020.

Camera: Yudai Maruyama and Yohei Haga
Produced and edited by Kasper Bech Dyg
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2020
Supported by Nordea-fonden

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