PDN Photo of the Day

A Family Album of Passing Time

Since 1999, Takahiro Kaneyama has been making quiet family portraits of his mother and his two unmarried aunts, at home and on trips they make together around Japan. The straightforward images could be taken from a family album, but seen together, they tell a more complicated story. The series, “While Leaves Are Falling…,” is on view at Miyako Yoshinaga in New York City until July 8. As Kaneyama writes in a statement, he was raised by his grandmother and these three women, after his mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was a teenager. After his grandmother died, he began diligently photographing his remaining family during visits “to places my mother and aunts have wanted to see since they were young.” In the images, the three women pose unsmiling on the green grass of the hospital grounds where his mother is staying; warmly dressed in front of Mt. Fuji; or in an unexplained cloud of bubbles in the spa town of Hakone. Other images show Kaneyama’s mother alone—she watches TV at home, sits in the sun in a Kyoto hotel room, or stares blankly in white hospital room. (Ever since her diagnosis, Kaneyama’s mother “has been going back and forth between home and her hospital,” he writes.)

The women gaze stoically at the camera and no one looks like they’re having much fun on these vacations. But the changing settings are often peaceful, and the occasional unpeopled views are strikingly beautiful. Together, the images make what looks like an honest record of the complexity of family. Writes Kaneyama, “What we’re trying to do is to make up for memories we never had.” Losing his grandmother, who he describes as “the boss among the four women who raised me,” left Kaneyama “acutely aware of how much time had passed without my really noticing.” Photographing those who are left is a way to “accept the changes that have taken place, and those that are yet to come.”

Related Stories:
Sage Sohier’s Model Mother
Making Peace with Her Mother’s House
Alejandro Chaskielberg: All That Remains in Otsuchi, Japan (for PDN subscribers; login required)
Hesitating Beauty: Joshua Lutz’s Exploration of Schizophrenia (for PDN subscribers; login required)

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