Sunday, May 14, 2017

How can such awful discrimination and abuse against deaf people happen in 2017?

Two recent articles that can only be characterized as unbelievable and unforgivable:

Nun from Japan arrested for allegedly abusing deaf children in Argentina

A Roman Catholic nun from Japan has been arrested and charged on suspicion of helping priests sexually abuse children at a school for youths with hearing disabilities in Argentina, authorities said.

Kumiko Kosaka was also charged with physically abusing the students at the Antonio Provolo Institute for children with hearing impairment in northwestern Mendoza province.

Local media showed the 42-year-old nun in handcuffs and wearing her habit and a bulletproof vest as she was escorted by police to a court hearing. Kosaka, who was born in Japan but has Argentine citizenship, denied any wrongdoing during the eight-hour hearing late Thursday.

Authorities say that Kosaka lived at the Provolo Institute from 2004-2012. She had been on the run for about a month before she turned herself in last week.

The case against the nun was launched after a former student accused her of making her wear a diaper to cover up a hemorrhage after she was allegedly raped by priest Horacio Corbacho.

Corbacho, fellow priest Nicola Corradi and three other men were arrested last year after they were charged with sexually abusing at least two dozen students at the Provolo Institute. They are being held at a jail in Mendoza and have not spoken publicly since the arrest. If found guilty, the accused face 10 to 50 years in prison.

Corradi had earlier been accused in Italy of abusing students at the Provolo Institute in Verona, a notorious school for the deaf where hundreds of children are believed to have been sexually assaulted over the years by two dozen priests and religious brothers.

Advocates for clerical sex abuse victims have expressed anger that Corradi wasn’t sanctioned by the Vatican and allegedly went on to abuse children in Pope Francis’ native Argentina.

Victims and prosecutors say the anal and vaginal rapes, fondling and oral sex allegedly committed by the priests took place in the bathrooms, dorms, garden and a basement at the school in Lujan de Cuyo, a city about 1,000 km (620 miles) northwest of Buenos Aires.

A Vatican investigative commission recently visited Mendoza to learn more about the case against the priests.

Source: The Japan Times, 5/6/17.

Deaf Japanese tourist denied interpreter at Honolulu airport: ACLU

A deaf Japanese tourist was illegally denied a sign-language interpreter while detained and interrogated after landing at the Honolulu International Airport, the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii said in a discrimination complaint.

The ACLU said Thursday it filed the complaint last month with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Her name is redacted from a copy of the complaint the ACLU provided. She fears retaliation by immigration officials, the ACLU said.

She arrived in Honolulu on the morning of Jan. 31 to visit her boyfriend. Customs and Border Protection officials took her into an office to question her about her past as an international student in the United States, according to the complaint.

She requested an American Sign Language interpreter, but during hours of questioning she was forced to communicate by lip-reading and writing in English, the complaint said. In the late afternoon, she was handcuffed and taken to the Honolulu Federal Detention Center, where she was put into a cell overnight. “She was handcuffed behind her back, so there was no way for her to use her hands,” the complaint said. “When detaining deaf individuals, it is appropriate to modify handcuffing practices to allow such individuals to use their hands to communicate with signs or in writing.”

That’s equivalent to silencing her, said Mateo Caballero, legal director for ACLU of Hawaii. “She was treated like a criminal,” he said.

Customs and Border Protection received the complaint and will address the accusations after an investigation, agency spokesman Jaime Ruiz said in a statement, adding that accusations of mistreating travelers with a disability are taken seriously. Officers “receive extensive training in disability awareness and treat all travelers with disabilities with dignity, respect and professionalism,” the statement said.

At the airport, customs officials took away her cellphone, so she wasn’t able to alert her boyfriend, who waited 12 hours for her at a cafe near the airport, the complaint said.

At the detention center, which is near the airport, she again asked for an American Sign Language interpreter, but didn’t receive one, the complaint said. Instead, staff members tried to ask her questions by using a Japanese translator on the phone, but the woman can’t hear people talking on the phone, the complaint said.

“She felt humiliated,” the complaint said.

The Bureau of Prisons, which oversees the detention center, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The next day, she was taken to the airport for a flight back to Japan and her cell phone was returned. That’s when she was finally able to let her family in Japan and her boyfriend know where she was, the complaint said.

Source: The Japan Times, 5/12/17.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

"SDF member arrested for forcing girlfriend to send nude selfies"

From Japan Today, 4/20/17.

A 26-year-old member of Japan’s Ground Self Defense Forces was arrested Thursday on charges of making threats and intimidation after he forced his girlfriend to take nude photos of herself and threatened that if she disobeyed him, he would circulate nude photos of her taken in the past on social media and send them to her parents.

According to police, Hiroaki Makino, a private first-class stationed at the Ground Self Defense Force’s Koga base in Ibaraki Prefecture, is accused of sending threatening messages to his 28-year-old girlfriend through the free messaging app LINE on April 14, demanding that she send him nude photos of herself. Fuji TV reported that when the woman expressed her unwillingness to respond to his requests, Makino threatened that he would show previously taken nude photos of her to her parents and post them online.

Police said Makino had frequently demanded his girlfriend send him "up-to-date" nude photos of herself and would act in a menacing manner toward her if she didn't comply.

The two have apparently been together for two years, but the nude photo requests began to escalate recently, police said.

Makino, who has admitted to the charge, was quoted by police as saying he likes women to be obedient to him.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

"Ken Domon and the artistry of real life"

Text and photo from The Japan Times, 4/16/17.

By 1957, photographer Ken Domon had reached the peak of his creative powers. A picture taken that year in Hiroshima, which he was visiting for the first time to chronicle the lingering effect of the bomb, shows him supremely confident: ram-rod straight on a stool, tripod in one hand, he casts a sideway glance at the viewer. His brow is lightly furrowed; his lips display a slight pout reminiscent of a kabuki actor adopting a mie pose. What we see is an intense, tenacious and uncompromising mind.

Two years later, Domon suffered the first of three brain hemorrhages that marked the beginning of a long, slow and painful decline. In an image from 1979, on a photo shoot near Nara, he is in a wheelchair, his shoulders slumped, his cheeks a bit hollow. We can still notice a glimmer of passion in his eyes, but his gaze is distant. Not long after that, he was back in the hospital, in the coma in which he remained until his death in 1990.

Domon was a prolific artist who produced almost 70,000 photographs over a career that spanned more than four decades. And yet, much like Japanese photography as a whole, he was until recently almost completely unknown outside his homeland. In fact, the first museum exhibition entirely dedicated to his work was organized only last year, in Rome, and the accompanying catalogue, which will be published in English by Skira in June, is the first full monograph on his life and work to appear in that language. Late in coming, this recognition is long overdue.

The son of a nurse and office worker, Domon was born in 1909, in the city of Sakata, on Japan’s snowy northeastern coast of Yamagata Prefecture, where the Ken Domon Museum of Photography is located today. He moved to Tokyo when he was 7 and while still in his teens, he developed a passion for painting — he exhibited his first canvas at 17 and promptly sold it for ¥30. However, he never succeeded in making a living out of painting, so in 1933 he followed his mother’s advice and joined a photography studio as an apprentice. This turned out to be a great move: two years later, he was working for Yonosuke Natori, the founder of Nippon Kobo, one of the most important publishing agencies of that era, and an influential force in the development of photojournalism in Japan. Domon had found his calling.

The period that followed the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, when Domon came of age, was a time of great social ferment, when Japan was undergoing rapid and, at times, chaotic change. Artists engaged in bold experiments and moved beyond the mere imitation of Western modes of expression that had previously been prevalent. Graphic magazines and photo supplements were established, and these helped disseminate a new aesthetics. By the early 1930s, photographers were also learning how to use their cameras to critically draw attention to the country’s social ills.

By the later years of that decade, however, the atmosphere had changed. With the Pacific War in full swing, censorship became stifling. Like many of his peers, Domon produced propaganda images for a while, but he became disillusioned, even critical of the government’s attitude toward art, and he struggled to find ways to do work that remained meaningful.

In 1939, he visited Nara’s Muroji Temple for the first time — he would return over and over again — and this became a turning point. In the words of Rossella Menegazzo, a professor at the University of Milan and the co-curator of the Rome exhibition as well as the co-editor of the catalogue, it marked the beginning of “the greatest effort of reportage of his life.” Domon then spent much of the following five years photographing Japan’s cultural and architectural heritage. His widely hailed series on bunraku (puppet theater), which by 1943 totaled 7,000 images, dates from that period.

The postwar years, particularly the 1950s, marked the climax of Domon’s influence as a photographer and public intellectual. He went freelance in 1945 and began collaborating with a broad range of publications. He also became a judge for amateur competitions, wrote essays and became one of the leading exponents of a social-realist approach to photography.

In an email interview, Menegazzo explained that what mattered most for Domon was “to show the pure reality” in front of his eyes.

“In a society profoundly scarred by war and defeat, Domon refused to make beautiful photos,” she added. “This is particularly evident in the Hiroshima series, which was shocking and therefore criticized by many, but it also significantly changed the consciousness of people in Japan after the war.”

In those days, there were few commercial galleries focusing on photography and so the main medium to spread knowledge of one’s work was through books. Some of Domon’s volumes sold as many as 100,000 copies.

The “devil of photo-reportage,” as he came to be known, had little interest for the world beyond Japan. Except for a brief sojourn in China during the war years, he never traveled overseas. This partly explains why international recognition was so long in coming. But another reason is the sheer diversity of his work. As Menegazzo puts it, “It is not simple to assess the legacy of an artist who produced so much and continuously changed the subject of his work.”

And so today, Domon is mostly remembered for his series, on Hiroshima, or on children, those of Koto Ward in Tokyo and of Chikuho in Kyushu, or for his portraits, smaller sub-sets of his oeuvre that are easier to digest.

Domon did not purposefully aim to create beautiful images, but through patient and painstaking efforts, he captured the beauty of everyday life and culture in Japan. This alone ensures he will retain his place as one of the most important Japanese photographers of the postwar era.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Thursday, March 30, 2017

"Japanese Photography" - Two Current Exhibitions in Tokyo -and- (Bonus!) Two Good Sources

Caption: 'Boy Wearing Armor' by Suzuki Shinichi (c. 1882-1897) | GOTO SHINPEI MEMORIAL HALL

Photo and text from The Japan Times, 3/28/17.

There are two photography exhibitions currently showing at the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum that are thematically and chronologically unrelated, but together make a strong testimony of the extent to which Japan embraced photography from its earliest beginnings, and how the medium is a strong suit in Japan’s contribution to the contemporary art scene. One is a celebration of the extensive history of Japanese photography in the 19th century; the other a solo show featuring the extraordinary work of photographic artist Hiroshi Yamazaki.

“Dawn of Japanese Photography: The Anthology” is the latest volume in the museum’s long-term project to bring together images from archives around the country in an extensive display of samurai portraits, landscapes, carte de visite (the pictorial and more socially oriented version of the business card) and documentary photography of construction, war and natural disasters.

The majority of images were taken by Japanese photographers for Japanese viewers, but there are a significant number by foreign travelers, some whose visits were short, such as Commodore Perry’s daguerreotypist, Eliphalet Brown, and others who were resident in Japan for several years, most notably British subject Felice Beato and the Austrian Baron Raimund von Stillfried. There is also the rare sight of samurai in 19th-century France, which resulted from the renowned photographer Nadar taking the portraits of the Second Japanese Embassy to Europe, while they were in Paris in 1864.

Around the turn of the century, the foreign market for photography in Japan favored the alluring, exotic and fantastical. This was catered to by native and nonnative photographers alike, who helped cement the iconography of Japan as the land of cherry blossoms, Fujiyama, samurai and geisha. Photography for the domestic market was more austere, personal or practical, and the value of this exhibition is to focus on the wealth of material that has, for various reasons, been underrepresented in global histories of photography.

Expressing a quiet nobility, samurai portraits taken by Nagasaki-born photographer Hikoma Ueno, for example, have a very different feel to the hand-colored images known as “tourist photos” or Yokohama Shashin destined for export, which sometimes featured day laborers or studio assistants dressed up in samurai armor in a kind of early cosplay.

The print chosen as the main promotional image for the exhibition is one of the most well-known examples of early Japanese photography: the portrait of handsome reactionary Toshizo Hijikata (1835-69) by Tamoto Kenzo. The photograph has created a romantic legacy for the sub-commander of the rebel Shinsengumi, a group that supported the last shogun and opposed the restoration of the Emperor Meiji. Hijikata lives on as a popular manga and anime character in part due to this one photograph.

The choice of Tamato’s image is good marketing, and its connection between early photography to contemporary popular culture is entirely appropriate. With a few exceptions, the exhibits were originally never intended to be viewed as high art. The material qualities of the miniature silvery mirrors of daguerreotypes, framed in ornate gold frames or the handmade crimson lacquerware of a camera body (1863) are, nevertheless, a delight, and possibly a revelation for a generation used to digital photography viewed on screens.

The exhibition shows that in its nascent stages, photography was valued for its ability to approximate the view of the human eye and to preserve a sight over time. Spreading through Japan with the ideals of the enlightenment, photography was, as the Japanese word “shashin” (literally “truth copy”) suggests, the scientific method made visually manifest. By contrast, the concurrent exhibition “Yamazaki Hiroshi/Concepts and Incidents” shows what happens when photography is liberated from the task of being literal.

Hiroshi Yamazaki is best known for his 1970s work that used long exposures to show the path of the sun through the sky. Focusing on process, rather than subject matter, Yamazaki is expert at making the ordinary look strange, and continues to create work that is strikingly ingenious.

Early pieces show that Yamazaki could imbue even relatively straight photography with unusual intensity and a sense of the uncanny. A 1969 portrait of an unshaven, plaintive-looking Tatsumi Hijikata, the founder of butoh, kneeling in a hallway by sets of shoes, hints both at the creative energy and abjection of the choreographer and performance artist, with a composition of lines that is dynamic but also isolates Tatsumi from his quotidian surroundings.

The 1978 series “The Sun is Longing for the Sea” experiments with photographing the sun over time, resulting in images that feature a blazing white line reflected in blurred seascapes. Yamazaki called these experiments “optical incidents” — the action of working with photographic equipment and using their particular characteristics to go beyond human vision. More recent work looks at chromatic aberration — the optical defect that photographers generally try to avoid through buying expensive lenses, or using software correction — and photograms of hands creating ripples in water.

“Dawn of Japanese Photography: The Anthology” runs until May 7, ¥700; “Yamazaki Hiroshi/Concepts And Incidents” runs until May 10, ¥600, at the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (Thu. and Fri. until 8 p.m.). Closed Mon.

For more information:


We have been discussing "Japanese Photography" in class lately. These two sources have been helpful:

Photography and Japan by Karen M. Fraser (2011)

Blurb from The University of Chicago Press Books: In Photography and Japan, Karen Fraser argues that the diversity of styles, subjects, and functions of Japanese photography precludes easy categorization along nationalized lines. Instead, she shows that the development of photography within Japan is best understood by examining its close relationship with the country’s dramatic cultural, political, and social history.

“Uniqueness” in Japanese Art Photography: Toward Situating Images in Context by Pablo Figueroa (2015)

First paragraph from article available at Asia Pacific Perspectives: All nations assert cultural difference through contrast with other countries, and Japan is no exception. However, the country believes it is extraordinarily unique, and has built pervasive cultural myths that claim uniqueness to anything Japanese. Could “uniqueness” in Japanese art photography be one of those myths?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

"Writing with Light Photo Essays - A Collaboration between Cultural Anthropology and Visual Anthropology Review"

Today in my Documenting Japan class the students are starting their Two-Frame Photo Story Presentations. The assignment was inspired by my participation in a visual literacy workshop run by John Condon and Miguel Gandert at the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication Workshop in 2009 and the film Life Through a Lens about photographer Annie Liebovitz. The experimentation of experience with photography combining image and text remains important and relevant. See announcement below:

Writing with Light is an initiative to bolster the place of the photo-essay—and, by extension, formal experimentation—within international anthropological scholarship. As a collaboration between two journals published by the American Anthropological Association (AAA), Cultural Anthropology and Visual Anthropology Review, Writing with Light is led by a curatorial collective that aims to address urgent and important concerns about the sustained prominence of multimodal scholarship. Anthropological projects based in video, installation, performance, etc. take as a given that multimodality changes what anthropologists can and should see as productive knowledge. Such projects compel anthropologists to begin rethinking our intellectual endeavors through an engagement with various media, addressing the particular affordances and insights that each new form of scholarship offers. How, for example, does photography produce different types of knowledge than text and/or film? What criteria might we need to interrogate and evaluate each of these forms of multimodal scholarship? As part of a broader set of questions about the relationship between forms of scholarly work and knowledge production, we explore the ongoing relevance of the photo-essay.

The Writing with Light collective focuses on the photo-essay in the belief that multimodal (or visual) forms are not a singular paradigm and that a consideration of a singular research form might help us to rethink a broader array of anthropological questions. How does the photo-essay configure our engagement through its unique form of mediation and composition? We believe that the photo-essay provides a critical opportunity for reevaluating the word–image relationship. Conventionally known for its narrative qualities, the photo-essay is especially useful in reconsidering the relationship between words and images in photographic storytelling, as well as efforts to generate innovative anthropological knowledge with the capacity to go beyond storytelling. For example, we are especially interested in the photo-essay’s potential to generate insights focused on issues of mediation and representation, as well as methodological questions with the potential to shift how anthropologists conceive of the discipline itself.

This initiative is unique in that it draws on Cultural Anthropology’s wider view of emerging trends in anthropology, while foregrounding the particular concerns of Visual Anthropology Review as far as theorizing and critiquing practice-based modes of ethnographic scholarship. By relaunching the existing Cultural Anthropology Photo Essays section as a collaboration with Visual Anthropology Review, the initiative aims to open new spaces for interaction between sections of the AAA and corners of the discipline. By merging the literary and epistemological critiques of an earlier generation with the formal and aesthetic critiques driving visual anthropology today, we draw on the etymology of the word photograph for inspiration: thus, writing with light.

For more information:

I am cheating on my own two-frame story today by borrowing two photos from Japan Today both published today to examine and ponder current housing conditions in Japan.



I am not suggesting that these housing types are representative of Japan by any means. But it is mighty sad and one wonders about the priorities of the Japanese government as it increases its military budget and pledges aid for developing countries (aid = business opportunities). What about the people in Japan that need assistance? These are urgent and important concerns that need exploring...