Born in Japan in 1967, Mikiko Hara has been working since 1994, when she graduated from the Tokyo College of Photography. Studying had not been easy; Hara was not receptive to the College’s strict concepts of good practice. Describing the rules of the College, Hara recalled:
You must photograph the street. You must photograph with light coming from behind you. Don’t make dramatic photographs. Don’t photograph pretty children or beautiful old ladies, they are too photogenic and make your job too easy. Don’t center your subject.
It was an encounter with Garry Winogrand’s work that made Hara feel that an alternative approach to photography was possible. Given a copy of Winogrand’s Figments from the Real World (1988), Hara was inspired by what she perceived to be Winogrand’s fluid, impulsive method: I like [Winogrand] because I view his photographs as being very physical. Not too composed or thought out. He doesn’t photograph with his mind, but with impulse.
Like Winogrand, Hara favours street photography, taking pictures of Tokyo strangers. She chooses her subjects impulsively, but her technique is constant: wearing the camera around her neck, she does not look through the viewfinder, instead estimating the focal distance and shooting the picture blind. Using a camera assembled from antique models (a 1930s body with a 1950s lens), Hara worksexclusively in film, favouring Kodak Portra 400. For Hara, the process of film photography has advantages over digital practice:
With digital photography, you can shoot and see the result right away. If at first you don’t like it, you can delete it instantly. But with film, it takes you time to wait, develop, and print these images. During this time, something could change in your feelings toward an image. When you spend time with an image, you form a relationship with it. You might end up loving an image you had a tumultuous relationship with at the start.
Hara’s work has been internationally exhibited and is held in the permanent collection of the Bibliotheque Nationale de France. In 2005, she published a collection of her photographs titled Hysterical Thirteen, which collected her street photographs alongside images of landscapes, flora and fauna. This was followed by a second collection, These Are Days, in 2014.
M. Hara, Hysteric Thirteen, 2005.