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Kit Nagamura

Kit Pancoast Nagamura is a Japan Times Photojournalist with a regular column entitled "The Backstreet Stories". She graduated with honors from The Rhode Island School of Design and Brown University in 1982 with Bachelors degrees in Art and English. She went on to complete her Masters Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Michigan in 1988 and completed her PhD in English Literature at the University of Wisconsin in 1991.

Kit has had numerous solo and group exhibitions in Japan and her works are held in private collections throughout the world. In her words “I approach photography in very much the same way as I approach the writing of haiku, and I do both daily. When I walk the streets of Tokyo, I cannot help but recognize the ephemeral, and respond to it. As when writing haiku, my sensibilities are guided to the seasons first, with the human element invariably emerging through implication. After all, a photo of rich orange persimmons tied with rough rope is never just about persimmons or nature. The human element is deliciously, dangerously entwined. Of course, I set up specific photo shoots for assignments and projects. But, on a daily basis, I walk for several hours—my long-running column in The Japan Times requires this—and I stop each time I see something that moves me, to absorb, frame, and photograph. I have my camera with me 24/7. My family, quite frankly, finds this irksome; they prefer to travel with me by car, so that there is some hope of actually arriving at a destination on time. For me, the destination is the landscape and trees, walls and shadows, oiled industrial gears and worn hands of craftsmen, the sun breaking down a fence, the wet footprint of a heron…and “on time” is before I die.”

Kit’s photos, haiku and stories have become a legendary part of Tokyo life. Her monthly “Backstreet Stories” column in the Japan Times, explores artisans and hidden gems throughout the city. Kit willingly shares her knowledge of the city and of her adopted country by giving guided tours “off the beaten path”, sharing the culture and traditions with Japanese and foreigners alike. She questions and explores every aspect of life, considering nothing to be mundane. She has an insatiable desire to learn, understand and connect and shares her discoveries with an infectious enthusiasm.

Kit’s stories blend the historical context and centuries old traditions with her personal and intimate knowledge of each artisan and his or her process and her tales are skillfully woven into rich tapestries. Her images are beautiful as stand alone photographs but when experienced through her minds’ eye (with the addition of the haiku written to accompany each one), one often gains a much different understanding of the lens she used when framing the photo. No image is quite what we expect and the haiku is bound to at least make us think about it in different way. Her work, separate from her regular journalist pieces, delves into “mono no aware,” or the deep resonance in human hearts with things transient, whether decaying ship’s hulls, a butterfly’s tongue, or leaves iced in layers on an old pond. Her images and the poems draw strength from, but do not adhere strictly to, the haiku tradition.

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