Japanese photographer Rinko Kawauchi spent three years visiting and photographing the members of Atelier Yamanami, an art center and welfare facility for the disabled that has been gaining recognition both in Japan and internationally for the quality of its artworks.
With her typical warm, transparent gaze, soft colors and her ability to imbue her photographs with intangible qualities, Kawauchi portrays the life, the art and the deep interpersonal connections and bonds at Atelier Yamanami in various facets.
“Through my time in Yamanami, I began to think about each person’s role. When I am there with them, I realize how important it is to just be yourself. On the one hand it is very simple, but on the other hand it can also be difficult to do this in today’s society. By comparing myself to someone else, I confine the real me within myself. I regret past mistakes, I worry about the future, and I feel like I am not here in the present …
Whenever I come to Atelier Yamanami, I suddenly escape that darkness and feel like I have been washed clean. Laughing with the person in front of me, or being absorbed by the great concentration they put into working, allows me to rediscover the space within me. It is like a mirror: everyone reflects the light illuminating each other.”
― from Rinko Kawauchi’s afterword (included in Japanese and in English translation)