Izumi Miyazaki

Self Identity and the Lens

Following the chronological order of Izumi Miyazaki’s work on her Tumblr site, which she started in 2012, takes the viewer down a humorous trip through the creative diary of this young image maker. Her images often feel like everyday Japanese life that got hit with a twist of fantasy from anime genres. Scrolling through, the viewer can see her self-portraiture evolve into a style, decidedly her own with early posts serving as sketches for later concepts.

Using herself as her own muse, Izumi creates images that reflect the world of a young woman; they are funny, fashionable, introspective and beautiful all at once. While her work is so simple and often innocent, there is also a complexity under the surface as well. Izumi often repeats images of herself and has commented before that this practice is perhaps a way for her to feel less alone (she is an only child). A recent collaboration with fashion house Valentino in Tokyo perhaps hints at things to come.

You recently moved to London… has it changed you or your ideas about your identity?

I have started to say ‘hi and thank you’ to shop keepers since I started to live here. I really like it. I would do the same thing when I go back to Japan, even if it’s not common there. I’m eating Asian food almost everyday even here. I re-realize my tongue is completely Asian.

Where do you live in London? How is the city influencing you?

I’ve just started living in east London. City and environment influence my feelings so much. I don’t know why but there are some places, which makes me sad or anxious. I think London is good for me. I don’t feel sad so much and I sometimes get excited a bit. I like the UK so I’m happy if I can continue to stay here, but I sometimes want to try living in other places.

A sense of humour and playfulness in image making might be the thread that connects you and Japanese photographer Kayo Ume. How important is humour to you and do you enjoy and have fun making your photos?

I put humour in my works to be convinced that there are a lot of funny facts but the world can be a scary and grotesque place.

I think what saves me when I’m in difficult situations is humour.

As a young Japanese woman living in the moment of Me Too… how do you feel about your status as a woman in 2019?

I hope I can become a thoughtful human not only as a young woman. I don’t have any children, also I don’t have big power but I want to start something, which makes society better for my little relatives and friends’ children in the future.

I think what saves me when I’m in difficult situations is humour.

Do you have any female Japanese photographers that you are drawn to or like?

I like Yuki Onodera.

How do you feel about Cindy Sherman? Is there another female artist your feel that captures self-portraiture in a compelling way?

I read she’s not good at working with people, that’s why she does self-portraiture.  I sympathize with that a bit. I really like Frida Kahlo.

Japan has a strong history of post War photography with Daido Moriyama and Nobuyoshi Araki becoming so well known also in the West. Are there any previous Japanese photographers that you admire?

I think I’m not influenced by them… I don’t know about them well.

The theme of the horror or the macabre is seen in Japanese ghost and folk tales and then later in Manga. Your work sometimes continues the theme of ‘horror’. How do you feel about ghost stories or the gore factor in your work? Did you read any manga as a child? Do you draw upon these themes in your work?

I like manga but I usually don’t read about ghost or horror. Some people say my works are grotesque and they ask me whether I try to make people frightened, but I think my works are similar to comedy than horror. Human beings are grotesque enough even I don’t exaggerate. I’m scared of the fact, so I make artworks to make me (or other people) forget the fact. I read manga as same as other children.

I wanted to ask you, on your Wikipedia page, you cite Alex Prager as one of your references… could you tell me why you like her work and what inspires you about it?

I didn’t know there is my Wikipedia page… Models in her works look like they really exist… I can’t explain it well but I can imagine their life even though I know they’re just acting. I don’t think I’m inspired by her but I like her work so much. I might’ve been influenced by Magritte… his way to think is really interesting and a bit difficult for me. I don’t know who made my Wikipedia. I can’t find the page.

How do you see your work evolving? Are you yet able to see or predict how it will move? Do you feel yourself continuing with self-portraiture as your main engagement in image making?

I can’t expect at all. My works are influenced by my thoughts and feelings at that time. They are changing extremely fast especially in these few years. I might finish it when I’m not interested in myself.

You did a collaboration with the Valentino store in Tokyo. How do you feel about fashion?

I’ve been into fashion since I was a child, so I strongly feel I’m influenced by fashion and fashion magazines. That was an amazing opportunity to collaborate with Valentino because I’ve liked their clothes for a long time. Actually, when I was a child, my dream was becoming a fashion designer.

Below is an excerpt taken from Izumi’s book entitled ‘Me and Me’, published by Seigensha.

In her many playful, imaginative photographs, Izumi Miyazaki dissects and disturbs familiar scenes and landscapes, tricks her viewers, surprises with her idiosyncratic ideas. Beneath the poppy colours and all the playing around lies the sense of someone not (yet) at home in the world, not accepting what’s expected of her.

“When this state of being at odds with myself continues for a while, there is that other ‘me’ that has witnessed the whole scenery and comes up to encourage me to have faith in myself. […] I am going to savour the happy feeling of being able to be myself, and continue to enjoy myself as hard as I can.”

Berlin, Bears and Refugees