Photographer Azuma won the grand prize in Japan Portrait Photographer’s Association contest

Photographer Azuma won the grand prize in Japan Portrait Photographer’s Association contest

The prize-winning work “Tanaka and a girl.”


July 14, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo

By Shinji Sano

Photographer Kunisada Azuma from Nago City won the grand prize out of 100 entries in the 70th Japan Portrait Photographers Association (JPPA) Exhibition held on June 5. It is the second time the award has gone to an Okinawan in 19 years. The JPPA exhibition has taken place every year since 1948, and photographers specializing in portrait photography from all over the country participate. The prize-winning work is titled “Tanaka and a girl.” Higashi shot it three years ago in Myanmar’s rural area. “Tanaka” is a Myanmar cosmetic product made from tree resin. Azuma’s impressive work shows Tanaka’s whiteness and a girl’s tightly-closed mouth and powerful gaze.

Azuma started working as a photographer at the age of 23. Currently, he serves as the president of the Prefectural Photography Association. He began visiting Myanmar six years ago and photographing portraits of everyday people. Azuma said, “In Myanmar, people’s livelihood is a matter of life and death. I strongly feel the radiance of people’s lives.”

Azuma feels strongly about portrait photography. “Photography is a tool to preserve memories. After decades, memories revive when you see the picture.” The Great East Japan Earthquake occurred in 2011. Azuma was shocked while watching the TV showing the affected area. A woman was shedding tears and stroking a small picture over and over.

“For the woman, who lost everything, the photograph, which captured the memory of her family, was the only treasure. I reaffirmed that the photograph has that role.” Azuma also said, “I want to radicate the culture in Japan to take portraits at the milestones of one’s life. I want people to look at pictures with family and enjoy memories forever.”

(English translation by T&CT and Megumi Chibana) 

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