As the title suggests, Yurie Nagashima’s latest photobook “Self-Portraits” consists of photographs that focus on her own self as the subject.
The book begins with black-and-white photographs from Nagashima’s student and backpacker days in 1992, moving on to the early nude works that propelled her into the spotlights as an artist, street shots that capture Tokyo’s atmosphere in the 90s, photographs taken while studying at the Californa Institute of the Arts, and her return to Japan in the 2000s, recording her life as a parent and artist, arranged in mostly chronological order. Through the genre of the self-portrait, Nagashima touches upon different subject matters as the years, her equipment, her environment and her experiences change. Earlier works in particular question the role of nude women and the male gaze in photography, with her works turning more feminist after her return to Japan and the birth of her child, and the 2011 nuclear accident in Fukushima pushing her towards politics.
“The self-portrait means that you can take on both roles, as a model and as a photographer. When you have a camera on a tripod, you have the space in from of the camera and also the space behind the camera. It's very symbolic. It’s a way of taking action against the historical roles of the male and female in photography…
“When I was young, I thought my body was my own property so I could do whatever, but my son changed that idea completely. I think that my photographs—both set-ups and snap shots—are quite personal.”
(from a conversation between Yurie Nagashima and Lesley A. Martin, included as the book’s foreword in English and Japanese translation)