(born Nitta District, 1947)
Born in 1947 and raised in Yokosuka, a port city located south of Tokyo in Kanagawa Prefecture, Ishiuchi Miyako left home and studied textiles before beginning her photography career. Self-taught, Ishiuchi often uses the camera to deal with extremely personal subject matter. Her grainy style is reminiscent of compositions by Moriyama Daido, who, along with Tomatsu Shomei, was Ishiuchi’s mentor and collaborator. One of the few female Japanese photographers working in the 1970s, she gained recognition early, winning the prestigious Kimura Ihei Memorial Photographic Award in 1979.
Yokosuka Stories, published in the late 1970s, was Ishiuchi’s first body of work. After World War II, Yokosuka became the site of a major US naval base. As a child, Ishiuchi was deeply affected by the American presence there. The city was impoverished and often dangerous, especially for young women. Tension between Japanese residents and Americans on the base was ever-present. Taken when she returned as an adult, Ishiuchi’s black-and-white portrayals of Yokosuka reflect her dark emotional ties to her hometown. In a follow-up series, Yokosuka Again, 1980–1990, Ishiuchi focused on Honcho, the American-dominated area often frequented by soldiers and prostitutes, and sites such as the Enlisted Men’s (EM) Club, pictured here. Located just outside the Yokosuka Naval Base, the building was demolished in 1990, marking the end of her project to photograph the city.
Ishiuchi went on to explore traces of time on objects and the human body, capturing subjects such as the hands and feet of women born in 1947 and close-ups of scars from illness or aging. In 2005, she represented Japan at the Venice Biennale with her series Mother’s, for which Ishiuchi photographed her late mother’s possessions as a way of coping with her death. She then completed projects centered on the belongings of atomic bomb victims in Hiroshima and of artist Frida Kahlo. The recipient of the Hasselblad Award in 2014, Ishiuchi has been the subject of two solo retrospectives, at the Getty and the Yokohama Museum of Art. Her work is in the collections of major museums worldwide.