“La discrimination et les préjugés envers les femmes ont causé de gros dégâts.”

How did you become a photographer? Would you define yourself as a one?

When I was in my late twenties, I had no specific interest, and I was wondering what to do in the future. A friend gave me a set of photographic darkroom tools along with a camera. All I needed to start was film, chemicals, and photographic paper. When I entered the darkroom for the first time, I smelled something that made me feel nostalgic. I asked my friend what it was, and he told me it was glacial acetic acid used as a fixing solution.

As it happened, I had used glacial acetic acid before when studying textiles at University, as a color fixative in the process of dyeing yarn. It occurred to me that photography might be like textile dyeing, and this was intriguing.

I don’t necessarily consider myself a photographer per se, because I think of photography just as one means of expression. I think of photography as a method. My job title could be anything, really.

What drives you as a photographer?

I want to capture what cannot be seen. Photography can only capture surfaces, but it may also reveal things invisible to the eye, such as the air, atmosphere, sounds, and memories – what may lie behind the surface. What I seek to do is use light to print the present on the paper’s surface so it is fixed as an image, and all my diverse thoughts and emotions are fixed in beauty, or in love.

Do you think there is such a thing as a ‘woman’s gaze’ in photography? Is this something you can relate to?

I believe it is effective and relevant because it is an inescapable issue.

The reason for bringing up the issue of the “female gaze” in photography is that historically, discrimination and prejudice against women have been massive problems, and these will not go away as long as we live.

This is true in photography as well, and we need to be aware of it. However, while we do not simply live our lives as women – each of us is just one human being that happens to be female – we cannot neglect the political nature of what sometimes needs to be said, and speaking out can be effective.

This remains relevant, because I have observed the boy’s-club nature of photography in Japan throughout my career.

Has being a woman influenced your work as an artist in any way? 

I believe that I am an artist first and foremost, even before being a woman. I regard being a woman as one factor of my art.

Of course, it affects me. Although being a woman is not everything, it’s an element that shapes me, it’s also an important thing to think about in relation to photography.

ひろしま / hiroshima is a series of photographs that clearly shows my female perspective, and gave me a keen renewed awareness of my identity as a woman.

Do you live off your art?

Yes. I live off my work alone.

Which authors have inspired you? Are there any women photographers among them?

Novelists and philosophers have inspired me. But all the photographs I have presented are the result of my self-education. I think and act on my own. I create my own works, and they are my own responsibility.

I do not feel influenced by anyone else specifically, although I do have favorite artists and works. But I can’t say I have a particular favorite female photographer, or work by a female photographer.

Ishiuchi Miyako


The artist and photographer Ishiuchi Miyako (1947) was born in Gunma, Japan. In 1966, she began by studying design and textile which she later left to focus on the photographic medium as an autodidact. In her creations, she seeks to reveal what is invisible, to capture the many parameters that make up an instant. Her work has been exhibited in Japan and internationally (London, Los Angeles, Paris, New York, Amsterdam…) and is part of many public art collections (The Japan Foundation, The Art Institute of Chicago, Le Bal de Paris, the New York Public Library…). In 2014, she was awarded the International Award of the Hasselblad Foundation which recognized her pioneer status as a woman photographer in the mainly masculine world of Japanese artistic photography.

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