Translated by TAJIMA, Miho
Ishiuchi Miyako and Ueno Chizuko, "The Story of Two Women: Miyako and Chihiro"
Date: Saturday, November 30, 2019
15:00 - 16:30
Venue: Chihiro Art Museum Tokyo
Ishiuchi Miyako (photographer) and Ueno Chizuko (sociologist) discuss what it means for women to work and live, focusing on the lifestyles of Fujikura Miyako (Ishiuchi's mother) and Iwasaki Chihiro.
Click here for the event video (in Japanese)
Moderator: Today, we will have two lecturers talk about what it means for women to live and work, focusing on the lifestyles of two women, Miyako and Chihiro. I am sure everyone here is familiar with the lecturers, but I would like to give you a brief introduction. Ms. Ishiuchi Miyako is a world-renowned photographer who began releasing her photographs at the age of 28 and has been using her mother’s maiden name, Ishiuchi Miyako, as the artist's name ever since. She was selected to represent the Japan pavilion at the 2005 Venice Biennale and won the 2014 Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography with her Mother’s which is on view in this exhibition here. Last year we had our first collaboration on the theme of Hiroshima at the Chihiro Art Museum Azumino, and this is the second time we have collaborated with her. Dr. Ueno Chizuko is known as a leading expert in women's studies and gender studies, and her research interests include the care of the elderly as well. She has taught at the University of Tokyo as well as many other universities and is currently the Chief Director of the Women's Action Network WAN. Now, I would like to ask you both to come in.
Ueno: Thank you very much for coming to the exhibition of “The Story of Two Women” today. Let me introduce the star of the day—
Ishiuchi: Hello, I am Ishiuchi Miyako.
Ueno: I am Ueno Chizuko, in a supporting role. I am going to play the role of an interviewer today. People often tell me that I have a beautiful voice, but I lost my voice today due to the cold, so forgive me if it sounds too coarse. By the way…
Ishiuchi：I wear gloves as an accessory.
Ueno: I never knew that. I thought you wear them to hold a camera, but in fact you wear them as an accessory?
Ueno: Now, look at mine.
Ishiuchi：Yours are cool, the stars!
Ueno: They are glittering. Now, today's exhibition is about two women, one is of course Iwasaki Chihiro because this is her museum, and the other is Fujikura Miyako, your mother. So, Miyako is not your real name, is it?
Ishiuchi: It is my mother’s maiden name. She was born in the countryside in Gunma Prefecture as a daughter of a declining farmer who had no money at all, so she was named Miyako (“the capital”) in the hope that she would go to a big city to work.
Ueno: She was destined to go to Yokosuka, then.
Ueno: Ishiuchi is your mother’s family name and Miyako her first name. Isn't it kind of creepy that the daughter takes on her mother’s name?
Ishiuchi：It's her maiden name, so no one knows.
Ueno: My mother’s name is Shizuko, and my father used to call her “Shizu-san, Shizu-san,” which sounded like "Chizu-san, Chizu-san." It was really confusing and uncomfortable to me. I think it is common for a daughter not to want to identify with her mother, and I'm surprised that you can take up your mother’s name, actually.
Ishiuchi：I didn't want to use my real name when I went out into the world. I wanted to get a different name. The name that came up to my mind first was Nanako Tachibana, a second-rate “Pink” actress.
Ueno: You mean from the Nikkatsu romantic pornography of the 1970's?
Ishiuchi: No. Pink films. More extreme than romantic porn.
Ueno: You were going to select that name?
Ishiuchi：No, but anyway, that's why I chose my mother’s maiden name to use instead of my real one. I thought "Ishiuchi Miyako" was a beautiful name. I was going to do my first group exhibition and was wondering what to do. But then I thought if my father and mother had divorced, there could be a possibility that I would become Ishiuchi. Besides, no one knew who Ishiuchi Miyako was, so I thought it would be nice.
Ueno: That is a rather strange sensibility. Because you, a daughter, knew better than anyone else who Ishiuchi Miyako was, didn’t you?
Ishiuchi: I did not know anything about my mother before she got married.
Ueno: You are actually right. So, she was a stranger to you?
Ishiuchi: Indeed, she was a stranger to me.
Ueno: I see. You usually get a pen name to keep a distance from yourself. So, do you feel as though Ishiuchi Miyako was a complete stranger to you?
Ishiuchi: Yes, the name of an unknown woman.
Ueno: But people around you were calling your mother, Miyako-san, Miyako-san, right?
Ishiuchi: No. They didn't. (Laugh)
Ueno: I was hoping to solve my long-held mystery today, but I’ve been dodged like this. How Yokosuka-ish you are.
Ishiuchi: No, I didn't really think about that that deeply. It is just that my mother’s maiden name was one of the choices. Besides, it was neat and beautiful, and I am glad that I chose it. It was a coincidence, if you will, but the biggest clue as to why I took on Ishiuchi Miyako may lie in this exhibition.
Ueno: Hold it. We’ll get to that later.
Ishiuchi：OK. We’ll leave it there now.
Ueno: Ever since I was a child, I truly love Iwasaki Chihiro, so much so that I even thought about using Iwasaki as my pseudonym.
Ishiuchi: Is that so?
Ueno: Yes. I like her that much.
Ueno: So, how did you come to be working with this museum? Did you know Iwasaki Chihiro before you were commissioned by them?
Ishiuchi: Of course, I did. I knew her paintings, and I even knew her husband's name, Matsumoto Zenmei.
Ueno: Did you like her paintings?
Ishiuchi: No. (Laugh)
Ueno: I knew that.
Ishiuchi: Sorry. I was not at all interested.
Ueno: I know, you two don’t seem to go along. As for myself, I really like that kind of art because I am such a sentimental and romantic person, despite my image.
Ishiuchi: Her paintings are tender, beautiful, and romantic, but I was not interested at all, really. So, when I was invited to take part in the 100th anniversary exhibition from Azumino (museum) last year, I was really taken aback. Why me? Why do I have to work with Iwasaki Chihiro?
Ueno: I thought so too. Who would have thought of this combination? (Laugh)
Ishiuchi：People who came up with the plan are present here today, but I was told that Hiroshima was the theme of the work I was doing with Chihiro. And I basically decided not to turn down anything related to Hiroshima.
Ueno: How is Hiroshima related to Chihiro?
Ishiuchi：It was a collaboration between my works of Hiroshima and the book in which she drew illustrations for the text written by an atomic bomb orphan. When I received the information materials, I was so surprised to find that the life of Chihiro was so much similar to that of my mother. So, I went like, “What's this?” and that sort of thing. More than I had imagined. I found it amazing that she thought about many things from many different aspects, as well as the fact that she actually joined the Communist Party. I think it was not easy to join a political party back in those days.
Ueno: In fact, right after the war ended, about a third of the population was favorable for the Communist Party.
Ishiuchi: Is that so? That many?
Ueno: Communism was a boom. They said if you did not join the Communist Party, you were not qualified as a human. And about a third of the population was anti-emperor.
Ishiuchi：I wonder what have happened now.
Ueno: Indeed, it’s troubling. So, having Hiroshima as a medium, oil and water got mixed up and brought about a chemical reaction. When you mix water and oil, you get a dressing that is exquisite.
Ishiuchi: I see.
Ueno: So that's how this combination was brought about. What do you think of it after all?
Ishiuchi：What I realized was that Hiroshima’s got a great power. I mean, the power that Hiroshima calls out—including my collaboration with Chihiro—its depth and breadth, content, and various other things, including the fact that the war is not over yet. So, I found it extremely rewarding that I took part in it. And I have learned quite well that Chihiro was such a sensitive, serious, sincere person, so much so that she couldn’t even step inside the Peace Memorial Museum and just left, even though she went to Hiroshima to do research. Strange as it may sound, her paintings appear a bit different from all that, though. Nevertheless, I found her sensibility represented in her works at the core.
Ueno: You've re-discovered Chihiro then.
Ueno: You had a good encounter.
Ishiuchi: For sure. So, the museum asked me to do the same thing here in Tokyo. But I didn't want to do the same thing over again. But then I suddenly remembered Chihiro and my mother; they were only two years apart, both had professional jobs, married twice with husbands who were seven years younger, both of whom were college graduates. In that sense, there were so much overlap between their lives, so I proposed my idea as to photograph Chihiro’s personal belongings under the theme of “The Story of Two Women.”
Ueno: That means, they wanted to hold the exhibition about your Hiroshima here in the first place, but instead you proposed “The Two Women.” There was a chemical reaction after all.
Ishiuchi：I am surprised by this exhibition myself. Maybe it is a bit different from my original taste in the past. But I have been doing a series called Mother’s and there has been an issue that I couldn't really come to terms with up until now. This time, however, I am getting a clearer picture as to why I photographed Mother’s and why I took on my mother’s maiden name, Ishiuchi Miyako.
Ueno: I told you, it's not just as easy an explanation behind as to why you took on that name as you mentioned earlier.
Ishiuchi: I would say I have finally come to understand this time. I had a vague feeling somehow but could not explain with a clear logic of this or that.
Ueno: And I think that is why you became a photographer.
Ueno: I have known Ishiuchi-san for quite some time, and for a long while you had been insisting that you were not conscious of being a woman while taking photographs. I clearly remember that. Then around the time of Mother’s or perhaps 1・9・4・7, I started seeing a keen perspective as a woman in your works. I am thinking that today's theme is the relationship between mother and daughter. I mean, when I saw the two exhibits today, I found that Chihiro's room and Mother’s room were quite contrasting. Those photographs of clothes in Chihiro's room are mostly outerwear, girly dresses. They are probably the kind of dresses that neither Fujikura Miyako nor Ishiuchi Miyako would ever want to wear.
Ueno: On the other hand the exhibition for Miyako, the one floor below, is mostly innerwear.
Ueno: They are mostly innerwear, aren’t they? The first time I saw Mother’s, I was totally shocked. It was so graphic! Naturally, the way you keep your distance toward the objects in Mother’s and of Chihiro are strikingly different. I mean, those worn-out undergarments that once contained a body inside were represented in such a graphic way that absence of that which once existed inside was ever more highlighted. Did you identify the same physicality in Chihiro’s belongings?
Ishiuchi：When I photographed Mother’s, it was just several months after she passed. On the other hand, it has been 45 years since Chihiro deceased. Her belongings were very beautifully preserved after 45 years. But how I can put it…well, it is not that I take photographs of relics. In the case of Mother’s, I was emotionally overwhelmed by the sense of loss. It was as though I was searching for someone who was missing. When I opened her closet, I found a lot of underwear that was never worn. They were almost new. It is said that underwear is a second skin, philosophically speaking. In that sense, her closet was filled with her skin. So, I found it inevitable to photograph them. As for the outerwear, I don't think there was much left.
Ueno: You mean the ones that you wanted to photograph?
Ishiuchi: Yes. There were so many of those “second-skin” underwear in there. I thought I had to photograph them, or I would not be satisfied. Plus, the things that had come into direct contact with her body, such as lipstick, shoes, and so on. So, Mother’s consists of things such as underwear and the ones that were closest to her skin.
Ueno: That I understand. But I cannot think of it as just a photographic representation of a loss. Because, a daughter tends to have ambivalent feelings toward her mother—both love and hate—doesn’t she?
Ueno: Therefore, I see bare femininity in that work.
Ishiuchi：I didn't feel that way when I took the photographs. But years later, at the Venice Biennale, I felt that the work was getting further and further away from me, and my initial thoughts and beliefs have vanished like clouds. She was staying there for about six months...
Ueno: Who is “she”?
Ueno: That's an interesting way of putting it. You mean, Fujikura Miyako stayed in Venice for 6 months.
Ishiuchi: Yes. I only went there once in a while, but every time I went, the way I saw the work changed, and the quality of the work changed accordingly. We had a lot of people coming in, about 200,000 people. Venice Biennale is held once every two years, and the large central entrance can hold a million people, while 200,000 for each pavilion. So, I guess that is about normal. My photographs became more and more transformed by the way they were gazed.
Ueno: Can you say they are purified by being exposed to the eyes of others, if you will?
Ueno: Hmm, I understand how you feel, but I kind of feel like I have been cheated. (Laugh)
Ishiuchi: No, it is not that. When I saw Mother’s in Venice after a while, I felt like I had become an audience myself. Which means, I could see my work with a fairly impartial way.
Ueno: When I first saw your Mother’s as an audience, I was about to turn away from it, honestly speaking. I felt as though they were presenting a part of my mother that I never wanted to see and hear.
Ishiuchi: That's exactly how men would react.
Ueno: Oh, yeah?
Ishiuchi: They say they recognize their mothers in my photographs, which they do not want to do.
Ueno: That’s because they see a woman in there. Children generally don't want their mothers to be women. Much less a son, unlike a daughter.
Ishiuchi: There was a photo critic who actually turned his back on it.
Ueno: A woman?
Ishiuchi: No, a man.
Ueno: I am sure a son would.
Ishiuchi: He did not want to acknowledge it.
Ueno: Didn't you have that kind of love/hate ambivalence?
Ishiuchi: I didn't have time for that. No, really. I was devastated by the loss more than I thought I would. I was shocked at myself at the extent of the loss. Because she died just as I was ready to talk to her.
Ueno: She was 84 years old?
Ishiuchi: Yes. After my father had died...
Ueno: You waited until she became 84 to talk?
Ishiuchi：It had been five years since my father had died. He was 74, and when I wanted to talk to her about all kinds of things, she only had five years to live after he died. Just as I was about to ask questions I really wanted to ask, she disappeared. So, I got really upset. How can I put it? It was unreasonable.
Ueno: Hey, girl, for five years after your father's death, you traveled around the world so much that you did not have a chance to face your mother?
Ueno: On top of that, you underestimated the fact that your mother would always be fine?
Ueno: Your 84-year-old mother might be alive, but she might get dementia.
Ishiuchi：You would only later find that out, but I was really busy at the time. The point is, she was living in Yokohama and I was in Tokyo. There was a darkroom at home in Yokohama, so I would go there about once a week. But she was not much of a talker. When I asked questions, she would not answer. She would always tell me to go home, and there were many things I did not understand about her. It was just when I thought I would let her talk little by little.
Ueno: You should have asked her about her own history.
Ishiuchi：What's really interesting is that when Oshin was aired on TV, she was watching it all the time. I didn’t see it all. We saw it together once, I believe. She told me one time that it was much worse for her than that. So, I asked her to tell me more, but she wouldn’t. I have asked her time and time again about her life in Manchuria, about her ex-husband. But she wouldn’t talk at all.
Ueno: Just like Chihiro.
Ueno: My take of this talk is, we are baby boomers and we are almost the same age. I thought this is a story about baby-boom parents, baby-boomers, and baby-boom juniors—a story about three generations of women. As I mentioned earlier, Chihiro and Miyako are of the same generation. Same age. Also, they both remarried to younger men. Moreover, they were both the heads of the household and had financial power.
Ishiuchi: Well, she wasn't the head of the family, but she did have some financial strength.
Ueno: Chihiro was literally the head of the household. She was the one who took care of all the housekeeping and supported the family financially. Moreover, she lived in Manchuria. But when she was little, her mother, who was a career woman at the time and a schoolteacher, controlled her domineeringly. As for Miyako, she was put out for a live-in servant at an early age and was adopted. She didn’t have a close relationship with her biological mother?
Ishiuchi: It seems not. She was adopted under the condition that she entered a girls’ high school. But I could not find her diploma. I have found that of middle school and driving school, though. They probably did not let her go.
Ueno: In the relics over there?
Ishiuchi: Yes, she took good care of them. And there is one from elementary school, but I did not bring it this time.
Ueno: It's amazing that the graduation certificate from the driving school is kept so well.
Ishiuchi：My mother ran away when she found out that she was betrothed to the head clerk of her adoptive parents’ shop. That means, she did not like the guy.
Ueno: It is all in the chronology at the back of this book, so please buy it. It is really interesting to compare their lives.
Ishiuchi：I get the feeling that she had a good eye for men. I wanted to know about her life in Manchuria, but she did not mention it at all. There are no photographs left.
Ueno: That's an amazing story, falling in love with a young man seven years younger. I mean, if you look at that picture, he was super handsome.
Ishiuchi: He was.
Ueno: Zenmei was a good-looking guy, and Mr. Fujikura was super good-looking. And to top it off, her husband, who was supposed to have died in the war, came back, didn't he? That is a tragedy for both the husband and the wife. But then she paid her husband a compensation fee and got a divorce. Isn’t that amazing!
Ishiuchi：We didn't have any trouble with money. Being a driver, she got more in tips than her salary.
Ueno: I see.
Ishiuchi: Besides, she is a woman.
Ueno: The income that does not need to be reported to the tax office.
Ishiuchi：And what surprised me was that her husband came back when she was already living with my father.
Ueno: Didn’t they panic?
Ishiuchi：I’ve heard that my father ran to hide in a closet.
Ueno: That's not fair. Isn't a man supposed to stand up and face it at a time like that?
Ishiuchi: I don’t know, but I’ve heard that he ran into the closet. And she paid the money.
Ueno: Did the wife pay for that?
Ueno: At such time, why wouldn’t Mr. Fujikura at least say, "I chose this woman. Please leave”?
Ishiuchi：My father was a rather soft man.
Ueno: Is that so?
Ishiuchi: There is my uncle sitting right in front of us.
Ueno: Perhaps she liked a tender man?
Ishiuchi：Well, my father was a very kind person, and he didn't really like to work.
Ueno: Just like Zenmei.
Ueno: Then he was not in a clean business, was he, just like Zenmei?
Ishiuchi: He was not in a gang business.
Ueno: I mean politics is a vicious business.
Ishiuchi: Oh, I see. He was not good at working. On the contrary, my mother liked to work. She liked to work physically, so it did not bother her.
Ueno: I heard that for a while she supported the family?
Ishiuchi: Not that much. I'm not really sure. After I was born, my father was involved in various businesses, but they all failed, and he was in debt. So, he went to Yokosuka to work. That is why we all moved to Yokosuka.
Ueno: Did your parents get along well?
Ishiuchi: Not bad.
Ueno: Ah, not bad.
Ishiuchi: I didn’t look at them like they were doing good or bad or anything like that.
Ueno: But children feel things intuitively, don’t they?
Ishiuchi: In that sense, they were getting along well. My father would often come to Fukeikai (father/brother meeting) at elementary and junior high schools.
Ueno: It is called Fubokai (father/mother meeting) now.
Ishiuchi: You don’t say Fukeikai anymore?
Ueno: No. That literally means, a meeting only for fathers and brothers. Sorry, keep going.
Ishiuchi：So, it was very obvious that other mothers were young whereas my mother was not. I was always wondering why, really. On the other hand, my father was very young, around 24. He was like my older brother while my friends' fathers were all older, they were all middle-age men. My father was like a big brother. I was wondering why. So, they got along well, but I always felt that they were a strange couple.
Ueno: You must have felt as a child that they were not an ordinary couple?
Ishiuchi：Yes, for sure.
Ueno: If left alone, men are completely dominant in gender relations. So, in order to make it even, as I always say, the best way to make it even is to knock off their fake heels. For instance, if your husband is less educated than you, or if he's younger, or if he doesn't have money, you can make him stand on the same level as you are. Did she intentionally choose a man who was relatively mild and didn’t work too hard?
Ishiuchi: I don't think that was the case at the beginning.
Ueno: Oops, I missed the mark.
Ishiuchi: I am not sure about that. It was hard to get married because it was a difficult time to begin with, but what they used to say clearly was that it was a love marriage. All the parents in our day were arranged marriage. Almost 90% of the time was arranged marriage.
Ueno: My parents married for love, but they did not get along well with each other, and my mother would always say throughout her life that she did not have a good choice.
Ishiuchi: Is that so.
Ishiuchi: That's a pity. I don't care whether it was an arranged marriage or a romantic one, but I found it interesting that their marriage was for love.
Ueno: According to the data, the divorce rate is higher in romantic marriages than in arranged marriages.
Ueno: It is obvious. Because you expect too much for your spouse in love marriage. You cannot stand it when his/her performance is low.
Ishiuchi: Hmm, yeah?
Ueno: And the expectation of arranged marriages is low to begin with.
Ishiuchi: You are not expecting much?
Ueno: You hold the stability with low expectation.
Ueno: So, people who get divorced in love marriages are the ones who wouldn’t give up easily. A person whose marriage continues is a person who is good at giving up. There is a Matsumoto family around here, but they are a family of people who don't give up.
Ishiuchi: You have a point.
Ueno: All the neighbors testified that Chihiro and Zenmei were a remarkably close couple, and that Chihiro was a mother who raised her only son and never once scolded him.
Ishiuchi: You mean Zenmei scolded him instead?
Ueno: No, he was not at home to begin with. There is an episode that I cannot forget. Chihiro complained to Zenmei one time saying, "You're a bad person." And guess what he replied? He said, “I leave early in the morning and don't come home until late at night. How could I do anything wrong?”
Ishiuchi: You mean he had a job to do?
Ueno: No, he was running around for political activities. Therefore, he said, he did not have time to do anything bad because he was not home. No, no, no, that is not the point. That is exactly what we now call single-parenting, a mother doing household chores all on her own. So, it is definitely bad that he was not home, but he just did not get it. But then what I found amazing was that she would laugh at it and forgave him in the end.
Ishiuchi: That's because she loved him.
Ueno: Exactly. Because of love. You cannot forgive him if you do not love him. In a way, the wife of an activist is even worse than the wife of a workaholic office worker. Salaried workers work for money, while politicians and activists work for social justice and causes. It gives them a good excuse for not being at home.
Ishiuchi: You mean the family does not have much to do with it?
Ishiuchi: You can say that.
Ueno: As I said, Zenmei and Chihiro had various barriers. As a living witness to history myself, let me tell you, young audience, this prewar senryu (a popular Haiku-kind poem): A Communist man, at home turns Emperor.
Ishiuchi: I know what you mean. I had a friend like that.
Ueno: They had no choice. They just happened to be a loving couple who got along well.
Ishiuchi：When it comes to my parents, they often talked to each other.
Ueno: That is great.
Ishiuchi：Often in the morning, I heard them talking in a whisper, and I thought maybe my father was talking to my mother about something. I am not quite sure about what, though.
Ueno: Your mother, who never spoke to her daughter, often communicated with her husband?
Ishiuchi: Yes, she did.
Ueno: They are a good couple indeed.
Ishiuchi：In that sense, I think they maintained a good relationship without my knowledge.
Ueno: I see.
Ishiuchi：And after my father died, wait, no, after my mother died, I found a diary or a household account book or some sort. And there was a scribble in the corner of a page that read, "Kiyoshi is dead.” Kiyoshi is my father's name. I was so surprised because my mother had never once called him by his name.
Ueno: What did she call him then?
Ishiuchi: I don't know.
Ueno: Weren’t you there right in front of them?
Ishiuchi: I don't remember. But she had never called him "Kiyoshi," not that I know of. That is when I realized for the first time that they were a man and a woman, after all.
Ueno: Remember what I said? A man and a woman, in a physical sense.
Ishiuchi：I came to realize that for the first time. There was one line that read Kiyoshi was dead. At that moment, I burst in tears. That is the moment that I finally realized that the two had a relationship like that.
Ishiuchi: Yes, indeed.
Ueno: I think it is a blessing that you were raised among such a loving couple, but what I saw in Mother’s was excessive femininity.
Ishiuchi：There are no photographs like that at all. You are over-reacting.
Ueno: Am I?
Ishiuchi: You are obsessed with underwear.
Ueno: I am in fact a researcher of underwear.
Ishiuchi: You are too preoccupied.
Ueno: I have written a book The Theater Under the Skirt.
Ishiuchi: I know, you made your debut with that.
Ueno: You see, I am here today in a cross-dressing—in a skirt!
Ishiuchi：But I think you are obsessed too much about underwear.
Ueno: I wonder what everyone here thought of it. Your mother’s undergarments were rather high class. They were not from Uniqlo or Aeon supermarket.
Ishiuchi: There was no Uniqlo.
Ueno: See? They were not at that level.
Ishiuchi：No, I mean, they were just ordinary clothes.
Ueno: They looked so delicate and luxurious.
Ishiuchi: They just looked so.
Ueno: The other thing is...
Ishiuchi: Hold it, that is how I am photographing them.
Ueno: You mean, with your skills.
Ueno: But you cannot find that kind of delicate lace in some girdles around here.
Ishiuchi：I mean, I didn't know, just by looking at my mother, if she was stylish or feminine like you just said.
Ueno: Haven’t you ever seen another woman in underwear?
Ishiuchi：Well, of course, since I’ve been to public baths.
Ueno: Aunties force themselves into skin-colored, stocky, not-so-decorative girdles, usually.
Ishiuchi: Well, leave it at that. Come to think of it, when my housemate's mother got into a nursing home, he had to look at her underwear and other things, so I did it all on his behalf. And I was surprised there was nothing of lace in it.
Ueno: See? That's how it is.
Ishiuchi: They were like granny’s underwear. That is when I first realized that my mother was a fashionable person.
Ueno: As I said, she’d dressed up where no one could see, right?
Ishiuchi: I would say she didn't have bad taste.
Ueno: On top of that, you found a bunch of new underwear in the closet of an 84-year-old woman. I also did some research on underwear collectors. It was a man, though—how scandalous! Anyway, I found out that female underwear collectors do have a fetishistic view of their own femininity. That said, let me ask you, I wonder if this excessive femininity of your mother was not just directed at her husband?
Ishiuchi：Wait a minute, I'm thinking in a completely different direction, so it just doesn't click to me when you say that.
Ueno: Oh, yeah?
Ishiuchi: The underwear from Mother’s. Hmm, femininity.... Well, I can understand that, but no, they are really shabby, actually. It is just that I'm photographing them as art. You know what I mean?
Ueno: But then, when you were photographing your mother’s underwear, didn’t you have an intention to present her sexuality in a beautiful way?
Ishiuchi: I did not think about it much. Sorry.
Ueno: You photographers are sneaky creatures who do not try to verbalize what you have done.
Ishiuchi: That’s not what photographers intend to do....
Ueno: There you go. “It's hard to verbalize, so I'm photographing and/or drawing,” and on and on.
Ishiuchi：I try hard at verbalizing, though.
Ueno: I know, I know. But when I honestly say how I felt, you say I’m overreacting.
Ishiuchi：You have a point. I think it is important to hear what people think. A variety of opinions make it a good piece of work. In that sense, your sound and logical view may reflect the majority women’s attitude toward underwear, if you will.
Ueno: I do not know if it's majority or otherwise.
Ishiuchi: It is like a woman should be like this or that.
Ueno: I am just saying I felt that way.
Ishiuchi：That means you are the feminine one.
Ishiuchi：I am not, at all.
Ueno: Well, yeah? It is hard to believe.
Ishiuchi：I may be, to some extent. But in a way, I am perhaps hiding it by trying to look cool.
Ueno: That makes sense. So, the things you have been trying to hide come out in your photographs.
Ishiuchi: For sure.
Ueno: It is possible that people who saw it would feel it.
Ishiuchi：What I really mean is, my photographs don't have any captions, right? So, I think it is better if various people say various things in various ways because there is no explanation. There are a lot of things that I am not aware of, and it is really just a personal thought, a really small thing, so it's okay to let the work expand in its own right.
Ueno: That is what the artist says, and I feel like I've been cheated again.
Ishiuchi: I am serious.
Ueno: The impact of Mother’s was so phenomenal that you got lots of offers from around the globe afterwards, didn’t you? And you also photographed Frida Kahlo. And an offer from Hiroshima as well. This exhibition, also, in the same line. I went all the way to Mexico. I knew about many of Frida Kahlo's art, but I went to see the renovated exhibitions as well. There were photographs taken by you, and the dresses you took were on display in the new exhibition hall. So I realized that the exhibition had been influenced by you.
Ishiuchi：I haven't seen that yet. The hall was not ready when I went there. I don't know, that’s all I can say.
Ueno: You didn't know Frida, did you?
Ishiuchi: Of course, I did. Definitely. But when I am asked if I liked her or not, I did not, honestly. The reason is because I had never seen her real paintings before. I had only seen them in print. I had a preconception that they were rather light like an illustration, just scary and horrifying. But when I went to see the real ones, I got really overwhelmed.
Ueno: So, you have revised your preconception?
Ishiuchi：I was astonished. They were really wonderful.
Ueno: I agree.
Ishiuchi：You’ve got to see the real ones.
Ueno: I have seen them with my own eyes. I could feel her pains even from the surface.
Ishiuchi: Tender as the touch may be, she tried to express her identity with strong intensity. Totally amazing.
Ueno: Yes. Very intense.
Ishiuchi：There is only one work of Frida in Japan. There is this small piece in the Nagoya City Art Museum, but I definitely want you to see it with your own eyes. It is amazing. You cannot feel it in print.
Ueno: Didn't you have a photography exhibition in Japan?
Ishiuchi：Yes, at the Shiseido Gallery.
Ueno: It would be nice to do it here, too.
Ueno: Frida is a painter, so why not? Give a round of applause at a time like this, everyone. (Applause)
Ishiuchi: Thank you very much.
Ueno: So, getting a new offer like that triggers a whole new set of chemical reactions.
Ishiuchi: Right. For instance, I did not get involved in Frida nor Hiroshima voluntarily. I took them on just for work in the first place.
Ueno: What do you mean by work? Money?
Ishiuchi: No, it was a photobook. It does not really matter to me how much I get paid. I went to Hiroshima to work on a photobook. I had never been to Hiroshima at the time, so...
Ueno: You are kidding!
Ishiuchi: I never did. I went there for the first time in 2007.
Ueno: To that Memorial Museum as well?
Ishiuchi：Yes. I felt I should not go there with a halfhearted mind. I could not go there for sightseeing, you know.
Ueno: I know. You feel hesitant to go.
Ishiuchi：I thought I couldn't go there for sightseeing and would never want to go there to take photographs. I thought I had nothing to do with Hiroshima. But then this one editor who saw Mother’s commissioned me to make a photobook of Hiroshima. Back then I thought I did not have to go to Hiroshima for the rest of my life. So, I thought about it for a week and decided to go there because I had never been there before.
Ueno: That curiosity must be the karma of an artist.
Ishiuchi: Exactly. When I actually went there, though, it was completely different from what I thought it would be. I was surprised to find that the Atomic Bomb Dome was such a small thing, and the relics were, like, they had colors and patterns, not black-and-white, you know. That is why I thought I could photograph them. I thought there was so much more that I could photograph.
Ueno: So, you decided to accept the offer after you actually saw them?
Ishiuchi: I had made up my mind by then but had not decided what I was going to take. I did not start with the idea of taking photographs of the relics. There was a person who wanted to make a photobook under the big theme of Hiroshima. So, I looked around the whole town, looked at all the bombsites, and finally went to the Museum and saw the relics. I was like, oh, they’re so cool, they’re nice, and they’ve got colors, and so forth. So, I decided to concentrate on the relics.
Ueno: When you finally accepted the project after much hesitation, did you have some sort of mission in your mind?
Ishiuchi：It didn’t go as far as a sense of mission, but I thought I shouldn't go to Hiroshima half-heartedly. Hiroshima puts a lot of pressure on you, you know.
Ueno: It is heavy, isn't it?
Ishiuchi：Also, what expelled me from visiting Hiroshima was the body of works produced by Domon Ken which I saw in high school. I was adversely affected by his horrifying photographs. That is why I thought I did not want to go there for the rest of my life, I shouldn’t go there just out of curiosity, that sort of thing.
Ueno: When you accepted the offer, were you willing to take on the burden?
Ishiuchi: I did not take it as a burden, no, because I cannot take photographs of the past. I take photographs of the living moment.
Ueno: There have been numerous photographers in the past who took pictures of Hiroshima as part of their mission as Japanese, and there were a number of books of their photographs, so I thought there was nothing more to add. In such a situation, you created a truly eye-opening new form of expression, one that made as though the objects were imbued with vibrant life. I think you have made a great achievement.
Ishiuchi: Thank you very much.
Ueno: Even if all your works are forgotten, those would surely live on in the future, I bet.
Ishiuchi: Well, I don't think that's true. Hiroshima is indeed the history of humanity, so it takes a great deal of heart to be involved in it. I just thought it was because I was a stranger. Coming from somewhere else means there is a sense of distance, so you have to be objectively aware that you're an outsider. I knew I couldn't do it otherwise.
Ueno: Nevertheless, while you claim to be a stranger and keep your distance, though distance is a spatial one, you have jumped over the distance of almost seventy years of time and brought the vibrant bodies into the present.
Ishiuchi: That's because I talk to the people who once wore them. Some girls are still missing. I want to take a beautiful photograph of her outfit in case she comes back. I really feel that way, which is somewhat different from what you might call “Hiroshima photography.”
Ueno: It is the present, not the past, that you bring to fore.
Ishiuchi: Exactly. She is still missing; she could be out there somewhere. That is not really the case, but I felt that way when I was looking at the dresses, skirts, and other clothes. I became really emotional.
Ueno: It comes across well.
Ishiuchi：Only how I feel about photographing Hiroshima can make Hiroshima stand out. After all, I want to tell people that Hiroshima, which used to be in black and white, is in fact full of color and is beautiful and cool and fashionable.
Ueno: That was a surprise to me as well.
Ishiuchi：Everyone seems to be surprised, but I was the first one to be surprised, which I believe comes out in my photographs.
Ueno: It does.
Ishiuchi：But, you know, Hiroshima photography started with Domon Ken, and since then, it’s been photographed by a whole bunch of male photographers.
Ueno: They are taking sentimental photographs.
Ishiuchi: Without that history, however, I don't think my Hiroshima would have been able to come out all of a sudden out of nowhere. So perhaps I have taken that history into account, the history which starts from the indescribable image of Hiroshima that I found in Domon Ken’s photography as well as in various other photographers.
Ueno: That makes sense. There are accumulations, and on top comes new additions.
Ishiuchi: Exactly. That is history.
Ueno: I do agree.
Ishiuchi: However, there are men who criticize my Hiroshima.
Ueno: What do they say? Tell me about it.
Ishiuchi：Well, I don't know much about it because I don't have much to do with it; I just know that they do. It is something like “Well, I’ve been doing the same thing before you,” that sort of thing.
Ueno: They do? The same kind?
Ishiuchi: We all photograph the same thing in our own way.
Ueno: You mean they are taking pictures of people's belongings?
Ishiuchi: It’s a completely different story. I don't want to say anything bad about them.
Ueno: Say it.
Ishiuchi: I don't mean to be mean, but there is already a history, so even though I don't think I have anything to do with it, I think there is a background to how my Hiroshima came to be.
Ueno: I see.
Ishiuchi: That is how I feel.
Ueno: Talk about humility!
Ueno: I did not know you were such a humble person.
Ishiuchi: What do you mean? I am not saying it out of humility, it's a fact.
Ueno: When it comes to our research, it is based on citations, so our originality can only emerge from the accumulation of other people's work. That is history, isn't it? The history of expression is like that, but when it comes to the history of three generations of women after the war, each of Chihiro and Miyako as a daughter has a relationship with her mother, and each of Chihiro and Miyako has a relationship with her child as well. Chihiro's is a son not a daughter, right?
Ishiuchi: Yes, a son.
Ueno: I wonder how it would have been if it were a daughter. I wonder if she had had a love/hate ambivalence towards Chihiro.
Ishiuchi：It would have been a little different, probably, than Takeshi.
Ueno: And come to think of it, we, the third generation, do not have a mother and daughter relationship after us.
Ishiuchi: Right. Unfortunately, neither of us have children. That's because we both are expressing ourselves, you by way of research and I photography, aren’t we?
Ueno: Expressions cannot be a substitute for babies, though.
Ishiuchi：But I do feel that I give birth each time I photograph.
Ueno: Oh, yeah?
Ueno: I do feel that I give birth to a book each time as well.
Ishiuchi: Wouldn’t that be fine?
Ueno: But “the child” you give birth to doesn't poop or pee. Whereas a human baby, once they are born, the rest is a big deal.
Ishiuchi: I know that. But then why didn’t you have a baby?
Ueno: When I saw my mother’s life, I did not think I could take it. My parents married for love, and I was not forced or told what to do, but she kept saying that she had a wrong choice. When I was a child, I felt sorry for her and thought that my father was to blame, but when I became a teenager, that’s when daughters become most critical to mothers, you know. So, I thought "Mother, you are unhappy no matter who you marry.” This finding rests at the base of my sociology. How about you?
Ishiuchi：My parents got along very well, but I didn’t want to get married. There was a guy I like, but I had already decided at my first menstruation that I would not want to have children.
Ueno: Isn't that way too early?
Ishiuchi: I was so scared when I saw me bleeding, so much so that I did not want to bleed any more.
Ueno: Oh, yeah?
Ishiuchi: It's true. So, I carried it through. No babies.
Ueno: But if you don't have a baby, menstruation won’t stop.
Ishiuchi：I know. That is why I was so happy when I went through menopause.
Ishiuchi: I felt great!
Ueno: I see. It must have been awfully difficult for a person who was so afraid of seeing blood to photograph Hiroshima then.
Ishiuchi：But Hiroshima’s is not real blood; it's the blood of time, if you will.
Ueno: I feel like I’ve being dodged again.
Ishiuchi: Come on, it is not like that.
Ueno: There's another thing I really want to talk about today. This is a book written by a non-fiction writer named Utashiro. It is titled Chihiro’s Expressions, which came out recently. It's a bit pretentious, but it's okay. So, you know, we are both elders now, right?
Ueno: I wanted to talk about how we think about ourselves as getting old.
Ishiuchi: That's a good topic.
Ueno: I liked Chihiro's paintings, but I knew little of her life. Then I had a chance to read her essay titled “Becoming an Adult” posted on a panel at the museum in Azumino. She wrote it in her later years, when she was 53, which captivated my heart, totally. Would you like to read it for me?
Ishiuchi: "People, especially women, often talk about the time when they were young and beautiful as if it was the best time of their lives. But when I look back at myself, I can hardly think that I had a good time when I was young. That, however, does not mean that I had a particularly clumsy girlhood. Aside from the war years, I had a seemingly happy, normal life." I’m not really good at reading..."I used to play a lot, drawing, music, sports, etc. But I did not know much about the hardships of my parents who supported me. I thought of everything simply, processed everything simply, and did not notice if I was rude to other people. Looking back..." It's the first time I've read it, so it's kind of hard....
Ueno: "Looking back, those were the days of my youth when I was shameful and thoughtless." I'll skip over it a bit.
Ishiuchi: Go ahead, it is long.
Ueno: "Of course, I am not saying that I have become respectable now. But I think I am better than I used to be. And it took me more than twenty years of somber struggles before I could finally say that I became a better person than before. After a lot of mistakes and cold sweats, I am starting to understand things little by little. Why go back to the young days?"
Ishiuchi: That is a good one.
Ueno: That's a good line, isn't it?
Ishiuchi: It's great. I can relate to it.
Ueno: If you read it a little more, it says, "I think I have become an adult who can walk through this world by my own strength. That is why I have come to understand these things. An adult, I believe, is a person who is able to love others, no matter how many hardships she is going through.” Have you read this already? This really captured my soul. It was posted on a panel, so I wrote a letter to the museum asking if I could get a copy of this, or if they could just tell me where I could find the quote.
Ishiuchi: It's in her essay.
Ueno: I wrote a letter as a fan. Then the director of the museum responded and told me which book it was in. The director at the time was Ms. Matsumoto Yuriko. Since that time, the Matsumoto family and I have been friends.
Ishiuchi: I see.
Ueno: So, for the first time, I began to look to her life as well as her work. “Why go back to the young days?” Nice phrase, isn’t it? Listen up, young people. (Laugh) What do you think of it?
Ishiuchi: I absolutely agree. I don't want to go back to the young days, and I'm blushing thinking about my young days.
Ueno: I know. It is embarrassing.
Ishiuchi：I don't want to go back to those days again, and I think things got much more interesting as I got older.
Ueno: Same here. I’ve got freer as I got older.
Ueno: When you are young, you are hard-headed, you know.
Ishiuchi: I no longer do anything I do not like, including personal relationships. I only do what I can. I would try to do even the things I couldn't do when I was young, but now I know that I can’t. The good thing about getting old is that you get to see your limits very clearly.
Ueno: Oh, you took it that way?
Ishiuchi: You can only do so much. The narrower the range, the purer the product, I believe.
Ueno: I am not sure if that is what Chihiro was saying though. (Laugh)
Ishiuchi: Of course, it is different.
Ueno: It was not that she was getting less and less able to do, it was that she was finally able to get that far. That it was the result of her years of hard work.
Ishiuchi: Well, I mean...
Ueno: That is why she said, “Why go back to the young days?”
Ishiuchi：As far as I'm concerned, I thought I could do anything when I was younger.
Ueno: How arrogant! I did not think that way myself.
Ishiuchi: Arrogance indeed. But things got really clear to me now. My body no longer moves. Forgetfulness is the norm. But in the midst of that, I’ve come to realize that it's okay to forget, it's okay not to be agile. Just do what you can. It's actually a great thing that the range of what you can do gets narrower.
Ueno: It frees you up, right?
Ishiuchi: For sure.
Ueno: People like you, who were once arrogant, become more and more humble and free as they get older, whereas people like me, who felt limited by their own power and lived a humble and unhappy youth, (Ishiuchi: No way!) have gradually increased their possibilities over time, and now feel very free at last. Alas, it is good to get old.
Ueno: There's not much time left. Let's have a few comments from this eager audience here.
Ishiuchi: All right.
Ueno: Questions, comments, anything.
At the Venice Biennale, you mentioned that your work Mother’s had changed after being seen by 200,000 people. Can you talk more about that?
Ishiuchi：What I meant was that the work itself did not change, but it invoked change at the side of a viewer. My mother was there in Venice for half a year, and the photographs looked so comfortable there. It’s partly because the way I see them had changed. The other thing is that people spent a lot of time in the Japan Pavilion, and everyone was just gazing at my works so intently. People from around the globe saw my works. I heard there were a lot of people crying when they saw Mother’s. I photographed Mother’s out of the feeling of loss, though you (Ueno) may have a different opinion, but when I saw during my three visits that people were standing still in front of my works and crying regardless of the language barrier, I felt like I came to understand my mother at last. It's a strange way of putting it, but even though I am the one who created the artwork, I did not have much to do with it. I was able to see the relationship between the audience and the photographs from a very objective point of view. I brought the same pieces from the museum that were exhibited in Venice, but it's a bit too small here. It is partly because there are too many works, and I wanted to exhibit them in a larger space. But come to think of it, Chihiro is on the lower floor and Mother’s on the upper floor, and it was a total coincidence that the same lipsticks were in the same space, up and bottom. Matsumoto-san told me about it, and I was like, "Oh, I see,” and I did not really pay much attention to it. But with respect to the power of space as well as the relationship between Chihiro and my mother, I can now see the works from a different perspective than before.
Ueno: Now that we are at it, let's go back to the question I left for you at the beginning.
Ishiuchi: What was that again?
Ueno: You said that this exhibition helped you understand why you took on the name Ishiuchi Miyako.
Ishiuchi: Yes, I did. See these photographs here? The originals are really small, especially my mother’s, so I enlarged them. And the fact that the photographs are still here and not thrown away makes me think that they will somehow lead me to the future. When it comes to my name, even though I chose it by chance, I feel that there is a line that connects all these things, including the fact that I became a photographer. I didn't realize it when I took on her name, but when I think about it now, that I took on the name of an unknown woman named Ishiuchi Miyako came together into the form of photography in this context.
Ueno: So, by assuming your mother's name, you have come to recognize your ties with your mother. You never gave birth to a daughter, but your work will remain in its place in the name of Ishiuchi Miyako. I see.
Ishiuchi: Wouldn’t you agree?
Ueno: Are you convinced about that?
Ishiuchi: There's no need to be convinced.
Ueno: I mean when I hear you say that you came to an understanding, I, as a listener, thought, "I see," that’s all.
Ishiuchi：Well, this is a find to me that I haven’t really thought about until now.
Ueno: It may sound like a rehash, but when I first asked you, you said it was just a coincidence or what have you.
Ishiuchi: Things change, you know.
Ueno: Chance becomes fate, they say.
Ishiuchi: Very true. And you can't change alone. This was my find thanks to Iwasaki Chihiro.
Ueno: Great. You know, the person who turns chance into fate is called a hero.
Ueno: On second thought, the reason people were crying at the Venice Biennale was because it is Italy! The country of Mamma Mia Mama’s boys!
Ishiuchi: Maybe that’s part of the reason, but they came from across the globe, not just from Italy.
Ueno: Let me give you my own deep interpretation. I would say that while men are able to take the loss directly, girls have a love/hate ambivalence with their mothers. Therefore, only after they lose their mothers can the girls have feelings of forgiveness and reconciliation for their mothers. In other words, it worked not only as a place of purification for the work itself but as a place of healing for the viewers as well.
Ishiuchi: That may be so. Photographs are different from words in that they are visual images, so you can communicate with others just by looking at them.
Ueno: I am so jealous. People who make music, photography, and all that that don't require translation are getting the benefit out of it.
Ishiuchi: I don’t think it’s the matter of benefit or loss.
Ueno: I know. I’m saying I'm jealous. Next question?
I am surprised to learn that you are using your mother’s name. Since your mother passed, the way you see your mother has changed, you said. What are your thoughts on this?
Ishiuchi ：As I said earlier, we didn't really communicate much. She was not a talker. Also, my mother had a physical power of a manual laborer. My father was a bit of a soft person, so my parents were very well balanced. I wanted to talk with my mother about a lot more things. I am a pretty talkative person, but she didn't answer any of my questions, so I couldn't even imagine what her life was like. For this exhibition, there was a person who went all the way to the National Diet Library to research my mother's life in Manchuria and when she was born and stuff like that. That made a lot of things clear. Normally you don't look into someone’s personal history that much, do you? But thanks to this exhibition, I learned a history of women drivers in Japan and all that. I had been wondering why my mother got a driver's license. She wouldn't answer when I asked her. And even if she did, she would say because it was cool. She was that kind of person. After doing some research, I understood it very well about the history of women drivers. So, for the first time, I think I understand something like the background as to why my mother would not want to talk to me.
Ueno: Before the war, there were very few women who got a driver's license. Female drivers had been looked at with discrimination and prejudice for so long.
Ishiuchi：That's right, people would call her kumosuke (derogatory word for a taxi driver), and me kumosuke’s daughter.
Ueno: Not kumo-ko? Have you ever heard of the One Hime (Princess), Two Tora (Tiger), Three Danpu (Dump Truck)? You know, the one who is most likely to cause a bad accident is female driver, tiger, (Ishiuchi: truck?) no, a drinker, and a dump truck, in that order.
Ishiuchi: I heard it for the first time today.
Ueno: Everybody knows. It is just that I have common sense. (Laugh) In those days, you had to take two kinds of tests to get a license unlike our time.
Ishiuchi：She said that she had to dismantle the car and put it back together again.
Ueno: You could not get a driver's license unless you could do that much. Did she teach you that? The skills?
Ishiuchi：Not at all. I got a driver's license at the age of 18, but she never rode on a car that I was driving.
Ueno: She must have been scared.
Ishiuchi：That's not what I meant. She drove herself and gave me a ride wherever she went.
She made it clear that she would never want to be in my driving. It is not that she was scared or anything.
Ueno: When you first started out, the camera was really an optical machine, so you had to have a darkroom. You did not have any sense of resistance to using machines?
Ishiuchi: Not much. I am more of a speed freak.
Ueno: It is the same for me!
Ishiuchi: It is not good, though.
Ueno: I have been subjected to typical discrimination. When my brothers got driver's licenses, I said I was next, and you know what they said? "Don't worry, girls can sit in the passenger seat.”
Ueno: Yes, they did. That is the kind of family I grew up in.
Ishiuchi: That sounds so old fashioned.
Ueno: So, when I was over 30 and went to the U.S. for the first time in my life, I found out that I could not live without a car there. So, I got my driver's license with tears in my eyes.
Ueno: I cursed my father.
Ueno: I cursed my father. When I got on the driver's seat, I realized how comfortable it was, and I thought he had cheated me.
Ishiuchi: It is better to drive, right?
Ueno: When you drive a car, operating a big one, you get a sense of power. I think your mother felt a sense of power, too. And I am a speed freak, too.
Ishiuchi：My mother only drove big cars, she never drove any small ones.
Ueno: Because you get a great sense of power.
Ishiuchi：I found that after moving to Kiryu, all the women over 80 years old are driving. The reason for this is that driving a car all the time gives you a sense of independence, they say. (Ueno: Because there is no means of transportation there.) Life becomes a lot easier if you can drive.
Ueno: They are clogs in Kiryu.
Ishiuchi: Anyway, driving a car is great for women because it allows them to move around independently.
Ueno: I didn't want to ask a man to drive me around because he may have wanted something in return. So, I did my best to get myself a driver's license so as to be independent in the U.S.
Ishiuchi: I think that is normal.
Ueno: I’m saying I grew up in such a family.
Ishiuchi: I got my license at 18, not because I am a woman, but because my mother worked, so I thought it was natural to work. I thought it was natural to have a job.
Ueno: I may have been a generation ahead of you.
Ueno: I would like to ask you one more question. If Miyako had been alive, what would she have thought of her being next to Chihiro like this?
Ishiuchi: I think she is happy.
Ueno: If she were in the same place with Chihiro, would they become friends do you think?
Ishiuchi: I don't think so.
Ueno: (Laugh) Neither do I.
Ishiuchi: That's impossible. Both Chihiro and my mother are dead, so this whole exhibition is in a sense a creation of mine. I would not say that my mother and Chihiro have nothing to do with it, but that's a different story.
Ueno: I see. Clear answer, which I agree.
Ishiuchi: What else could there be?
Ueno: Next question?
In your photograph, there is a moment in which you cut out various memories, and I feel the unique sense of composition and softness of light in it. Please tell us about the people and things you value when capturing a moment.
Ishiuchi：To tell you the truth, I'm not very good at shooting, so I take photographs as fast as I can, as few as possible. And the composition, how should I put it, is almost instantaneous, with no composition. Camera’s handheld, using 35mm, with natural light. I use film because I use this small Nikon F3. I think about all you said when I select the printed ones. You can't see in advance because it's film, you know. I ask them to print the whole thing in postcard size, and that is when I look at them carefully. I go to Yodobashi Camera. (Laugh) Everyone gets surprised when I say this, but it is not Yodobashi Camera that does the developing--Kodak does. So, I don't have that kind of mindset about photography at all. I don’t have time for clipping.
Ueno: You don’t use the digital camera?
Ishiuchi: No. I use film all the time.
Ueno: The way she answers that question, that she says she doesn’t know, doesn’t remember—that’s so typical of an art creator! Those who cannot verbalize the secrets of their artwork are called art creators. (Laugh)
Ishiuchi：You said the same thing a while ago. Really, it’s true. The museum staff was there and saw how fast I took photographs of Chihiro's belongings, so you can just ask them. I use natural light, so I think about where the light comes in from. That's about it. I know my own sense of distance, so it is easy. I don't hesitate too much. It is the same when I shoot Hiroshima. This time as well. Mother’s was a bit different, though. There was a lot more emotional stuff going on. I was oddly serious. I was also serious this time, but if you take a lot of photographs, it's hard to process them afterwards. You know what I mean if you do photography.
Ueno: Another thing that surprised me, as well as the fact that it is film and not digital, was the fact that you do not shoot a lot.
Ueno: So, you select the best ones from among them. But then, isn't your skill and stance you take, which allows you to make decisions in an instant, the result of your years of experience?
Ueno: There you go. It's not something you can learn overnight. (Laugh) Can I end with this one? It's all women, isn't it?
What did your mother think about her daughter's use of the name Ishiuchi Miyako?
Ueno: That's a good question. Let’s summon your mother with a séance. What do you think of that, Mother?
Ishiuchi: She was confused at first. But when I won the Kimura Ihei Award, I was at my parents’ house because there was a darkroom in there, and she said I got the award because the name was good. (Laugh) That's what she really said. When I heard that, I thought I'd done it. She said that, and she looked so happy. So that's what happened.
Ueno: Well, mothers are strong and indomitable creature. I am sure your mother is happy in heaven now. That is about it for today.
Ishiuchi: Thank you very much.
Translated by TAJIMA, Miho