Portraits of an invisible minority
With her photobook “Ainu, 100 in the Present”, Japanese photographer Makiko Ui followed a set of self-imposed rules: the photographic subject would decide the location of the photograph and the outfit they would wear, and they would decide the next subject for Ui to shoot. The Ainu, the indigenous people who lived in Hokkaido before the island became part of Japan during the Meiji era, were faced with harsh oppression: they were denied their language, their customs and their livelihoods. Even today, stereotypes remain, in the form of “a stereotypical image of the Ainu that ‘they are godly people that live in harmony with nature’”, as Ui reports in her afterword.
For this portrait series, Ui traveled around Japan for more than seven years, portraying one hundred Ainu people alive today, in Japan, who do not strongly publicize their ethnic identity. Her photographs approach each subject on an individual basis, giving them enough space for self-expression rather than constraining them with a strict formula. At the end, Ui asks them for a short statement: “what do you want to say the most now?”
All texts included in Japanese and English translation.