Japanese photographer Chihiro Kihara’s “Path of Lights” follow Kihara’s encounters with a person he barely knows. Kihara, based in Fukuoka in Japan’s south, traveled to Miyagi Prefecture in the north for four times between winter 2017 and spring 2019 to meet her. The photographs of uncontexualized sceneries, faces details and moments capture the ambiguity of their relationship—neither strangers nor friends—, the hopeful but intimidating excitement of a new place, of a new person, the invisible barriers that separate people from each other, and the strange sensations when these barriers are ignored and overcome.
“It’s the fourth time I visit since that ambiguous invitation of hers: “It’s nice here in winter.”
I go up the stairs and see the ocean spread out before me. She walks in front of me.
She cut her hair shorter again, and my memory of her from the summer we last met becomes even more blurry.
I open Google Maps to check the distance to the city I live in. 1383 kilometers. The smoke hovers in the air, glowing in the light of the sun. The breeze still feels harsh on the skin.
This is where she lives, here in the Tohoku region. Neither friend nor family nor acquaintance nor anything but a stranger to me.
Unclouded by any expectations or feelings, I wonder if I can see a person just as they are. If I can accept them wholly.”
― from Chihiro Kihara’s afterword (included in Japanese and in English translation)