HOME Portraits of the Hakka
Incredible portraits of a disappearing life.
Between 2006 and 2008, Osamu Nakamura visited the Fujian region in China to photograph tulou houses – the homes of the local Hakka people and registered as World Heritage site.
Introduced by a local ink-wash painter, Nakamura began to visit different villages and – carrying a Hasselblad medium-format camera – to shoot portraits of the people he encountered. A life in the old houses and the simple, self-sufficient lifestyle spent in the blistering sun had carved deep marks into the faces of his subjects. Some, as old as 95 years, had never had their portraits taken before, and when Nakamura arrived in the villages, people would line up to let him take photos. “Their eyes seemed to simultaneously harbor both confidence and bewilderment—confidence drawn from the fact that they have survived through times of dramatic change and bewilderment towards the fact that the traditional lifestyle was disappearing,” writes Nakamura in his afterword. Having visited the area again in 2019, Nakamura noticed that while the designation as World Heritage site had helped preserve the incredible homes of the Hakka people, the huts that had not been included in the designation were deteriorating, some had even collapsed completely. Further, the tourism – while bringing in money – slowly puts an end to the Hakka people’s way of life.
“Many of those living had become wealthy and were now free from the necessity of labor. […]
What was it that I saw ten years ago? The world covered in yellow light reflecting from the earthen walls of tulou—the world that seemed even magical to me—seemed to have already closed its doors.”