Since I first visited Japan in 1991 it has become my spiritual home. I photographed in southern Osaka in a tiny area called Kamagasaki. During Japan’s economic boom years the district attracted men from all over Japan looking for construction jobs and a way to remake themselves. Today, Kamagasaki is home to the remnants of that era, 21,000 day laborers and 3000 homeless dwellers, virtually all of them male mostly in their 60s; marred by deepening poverty and increasing cases of tuberculosis and alcoholism. Those who can afford it, reside in doya (flophouses), while those lacking money sleep in makeshift cardboard huts on the streets, sustained by a combination of free meals, cheap alcohol and a camaraderie that comes of shared adversity. Though these men are on the fringe, they project the core values and vitality of a polite, respectful, highly organized Japanese society.
In addition, Kamagasaki’s ecosystem plays host to some sixty Yakuza syndicates who deal drugs and run small gambling houses called nomi-ya. The syndicates allegedly earn revenues by preying on the welfare recipients.
What inspires my pictures is light and the hidden spaces it illuminates, especially in immigrant and working class communities. Places where beauty is found in displaced spirits and peeling paint. My photographs describe brief moments of human existence, carried by the rhythm of a setting. They convey what is at once simple and vast, passing and constant, ordinary and intangible.
“Forgotten Places” is the title of my current series, capturing the road to the interior of cities and communities that exist at the edge of society, forgotten or shunned by the mainstream. My photographic journey uncovers the hidden and unspoken. They show the beauty and dignity that can be found in the most forlorn places.
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