I Used To Be You

Kyoko Hamada

Since 2012, Kyoko Hamada has been photographing herself as the fictional character “Kikuchiyo-san”, an elderly woman living a delicate and fragile existence.  This body of work resulted in a collection of 99 photographs which often use humour, metaphors and storytelling to represent the process of living and ageing. As a result, the viewer is confronted with the fact that everything is in a constant state of evolution—reminding us that life is a temporal experience.

“I Used To Be You” series received the grand prize from the Lens Culture International Exposure Awards and was also included in The Photolucida Critical Mass Top 50.

Limited edition 300 copies artist book
Signed & numbered, 10.25×10.25, 70 pages

Offset printing    ISBN: 978-1-903977-39-0




Chapters start and chapters finish. From finding a few strands of grey in my hair to the changing landscape of my neighbourhood, “I Used To Be You” derives from a number of age and change led experiences.

My personal sense of loss growing up was also a big motivating factor for “I Used To Be You”. From moving to America at the age of 15 and leaving my life behind in Japan, to my father passing away which acted as the most poignant reminder that life does end one day.

Rather than being in my comfort zone ­­behind the camera, aided by ageing makeup, a grey wig, hand-made body stuffing, and a selection of thrift shop assisted clothing, I transformed myself into the fictional character Kikuchiyo-san and thus become the subject facing the lens.

The back and forth of Kikuchiyo-san being in my own home, and out in the world, brings to mind my tendency to ponder things that are right in front of me, as well as things we will never understand.

Ageing is a universal experience. As long as we live, it is a fact of nature we cannot deny or hide from. To think about our mortality is to confront our lives. It’ll be amazing, on our death bed, if we could feel content and our last thought to be – “I had a good life”.

Kikuchiyo-san represents those of whom are often left behind and neglected in the race to live, those who have to find ways to navigate through the obstacles and struggles within the modern world, and those brave enough to face its challenges.

The book and the project received extensive press coverage with  European and US news outlets, including CNN, Huffington Post and Its Nice That, requesting interviews or information about Kyoko and ‘I Used to Be You’. Some of the articles are listed here:

ABC News: New York Woman Says Disguise Taught Her What It Feels Like to Be Elderly

Huffington Post: Photographer Kyoko Hamada Spent Two Years Pretending To Be An Elderly Woman, And Here’s What She Learned

Aplus: Artist Spent 2 Years Wearing Makeup, Wigs And Thrift Store Clothes To Look Like An Old Lady

Buzzfeed: This New Yorker Has Spent The Last Two Years Disguised As An Old Woman Photographing Her Imagined Existence In The City

The Daily Mail: Photographer has pretended to be an old lady for TWO YEARS to capture how differently the elderly are treated

Its Nice That: Photographer Kyoto Hamada creates an alter ego for ongoing project

CNN Photo Blog: Time travel: The art of an older me

Refinery 29: How One New York Woman Is Confronting Her Fear Of Aging

Being Kikuchiyo-san is both future and past for Kyoko – as it makes her wonder about her silver years, but also about how her older self will look back at this series and remind her of her life now

(Michelle Cohan, on CNN)


ふらっと立ち寄ったブルックリンのある店の奥で 、なんでもない普通の白髪のカツラが目に入ってきたのです。ありとあらゆる色やスタイルの派手なウィッグが並ぶその店で、少々古ぼけたようにも見える白髪のカツラに私は引き寄せられました。そのカツラを見つめていると、賑やかだった店内の音が遠く消え入るように静かになりました。

キクチヨさんは、何十年か後、 自分が歳を重ねた時のことを想像し生まれた架空の女性です。彼女は私が暮らすニューヨークの街を歩き回り、地下鉄に乗り、数え切れないほどある美術館や公園も楽しみます。天気のいい日は散歩に出掛け、雪の降る日も気が向けば散歩に出掛けます。そうして、いくつもの季節が過ぎました。

時間旅行から 戻ったとき、アパートの窓からは街の喧騒、過ぎ行く人たちの笑い声、車のクラクションや鳥がさえずる音が入ってきました。慣れ親しんだはずのそれらの音が不思議に響き、生き生きとしたものに感じられました。それはとても素敵な感覚でした。

ときどき頭に浮かぶことがあります。混雑した地下鉄の駅や散歩中の公園で、もしキクチヨさんに遭遇したらどうなるか、と。彼女はきっと私の目をまっすぐに見ながら 「私はかつて、あなたでした」と静かな声で言うでしょう。