Photo news update.

I got this notification yesterday. I am very thankful for this... because this series do not complete yet and I felt this notification is an encouragement for me... This series is the work that I have been working on since last Fall. This whole process is very important to me. Like I mentioned, this is not completed yet (this is a part of the whole series) but anyway, I'm glad to show them.  Now, I started preparing for new part. Very exciting to move forward, again...Yes, this is my photographic journey.

"2010 International Photography Awards Announces Winners of the Competition" 
(from the Press Release)
Toko Shiiki was awarded an Honorable Mention in People - Other category for the winning entry "Midlife. – Chapter 1"

Entry Description: This is my story of midlife awakening. The concept for this photographic project arrived while I was constructing some egg shell forms; In the middle of a journey, I'm in-between birth and death. After long conversation about "midlife" with my husband, age 42, I felt – very clearly – that I must do this photo project with him. This project is not a fantasy for me, it is an inner-life documentary. Poised between now and now, the series continues.
winner's gallery
Actually, these images on the gallery are not all from the series. I uploaded the images from the Chapter 1 to my website: http://tokoshiiki.com/midlife_chapter1/index.html

Also, two of my images from the series are scheduled to be published in the portfolio section of the September 2010 issue of Photographer's Forum Magazine. If you have a chance to see the magazine, please check it out. And let me know what you see...  
Thank you... Toko
The 2010 International Photography Awards received nearly 15,000 submissions from 103 countries across the globe. IPA is a sister-effort of the Lucie Foundation, where the top three winners are announced at the annual Lucie Awards gala ceremony. The Foundation's mission is to honor master photographers, to discover new and emerging talent and to promote the appreciation of photography. Since 2003, IPA has had the privilege and opportunity to acknowledge and recognize contemporary photographers' accomplishments in this specialized and highly visible competition. Visit www.photoawards.com for more details.



You remembered me?!

Every once in a while, someone whom I haven't seen more than around 10 years tried to find me by using the Internet search. Actually, I didn't tell many people whom I used to see about moving to US. I guess that some of them felt wondered what I have been doing... Yes, because, to them, I suddenly disappeared.  I didn't have to hide but I also didn't feel the necessity to tell that I was moving. (Or, for some people, I consciously didn't want to tell.)

When I moved here (the US), for a couple of years, I didn't write my real name any online spaces. So, it didn't happen but recently, I usually have added my name when I wrote something online because I started feeling I didn't have to hide it.

So, unexpected people in Japan have found me. (Two days ago, too) So far, six people found me and sent messages.  wow...  Usually I felt... "Did you even remember me?????" or "What? Did you think of me?????"  In any case, those things made me, of course, happy. Knowing someone on the other side of this planet has been thinking of me or tried to find me. Sounds nice, right?  (Even kind a romantic...) ...well... not that kind of things, though... anyway...

...Like my name in Kanji, I sometimes feel that I'm just an invisible person. Dissociate from the reality around me and all the sudden realize this invisibility...  No one can even see, Do I even really exist? something like that.

But... someone remembered and tried to find me... Really? wow... That's really nice to know...
(Thank you...)

Yes, I'm here. ...somehow got here. This journey does not finish, yet. Keep moving forward...




Even if tonight I can't see the Moon in the sky...

Here is Moon man visited me!

Arigatou, Moon man...




Words can be a sharp knife.

One person wrote a blog and mentioned about me in the entry.

I have never seen him in person. I didn't recognized when I saw his portrait. He saw me on a stage. That's all. At first, he criticized me as a performer in some negative ways and they are something I still can take as they are. Some people like me on stage, others don't. Of course, that's usual. But one line, it is very hard to let it go. I have been struggling because of this, still now. I want to say, just "Let it go" but have had a difficulty to do so.

 He wrote about me, "She's like XXX meets XXX." (XXX are two famous people's name that I don't want to write because it eventually insults them)

...Anyway, I knew people use this kind of expression to talk about "eccentric weird Japanese/Asian" who have no sense of decency, especially their sexuality. The one of the ladies who is used for the example, she is always wearing a sexy dress and many times shows her boobs (accidentally or consciously? hard to tell) or her naked body, and was arrested because of shoplifting... Maybe, someone can guess whom I'm talking about. She is using her sexuality as a sales product in a very cheap way. But, she is at least looks like... she plans to be like that to make people pay attention to her. That's actually her strong point, in my opinion. Even if I don't like her but I still think she is somehow strong. Anyway, usually being used for an icon of stupid Asians...
Another lady who is used for the example is someone like an eccentric weird Japanese, not truly worth artist but just using her "exoticism" to sell her arts or using other fact, not her art itself, to become famous or something like that. (But, to be honest, I really like her.) No matter what she has done in her real life, usually she is also most likely to be used for an example in some kind of superficial ways to talk about weird Japanese (female).  I guess that the writer doesn't use her with any deep meanings. Just because, to the person, she and I are Japanese, also obnoxious, using being a Japanese exoticism as a product in order to sell ourselves to others, something like that.   Am I really something like that????? Selling my exoticism/sexuality as a product and that's the only thing likening/representing me? Well, I do not think so... If I were really like that, I would kill myself. Already I have been struggling because of hating myself in my whole life (but anyway, I have been working on to change myself, that kind of my thought pattern) But anyway, IF I were really like that kind of person (the examples fit myself), I wouldn't have to stay anymore.

One thing, he is good because he didn't hide who wrote that. But, the ignorance and the shamelessness and no sensitivity to write something like this in public even if he does not really know me , still made me very sad because he sounded like not just talking me as a performer; the part "She's like XXX..." is something like... somehow telling about ME. At least, I felt so... Once again, I don't mean that I'm sad because someone don't like me as a performer.

Even if he was very surface level in his thoughts ('cause we have never even met in person...), he wrote like that in the space anyone can see. Doesn't he think I also might read? (Yes, one of my friends told me about the entry. She was really upset about it and shared the link with me.) "She's like XXX..." The expression might not be a big deal for him but could not imagine that the expression can be like as if being stabbed by a sharp knife as an Asian lady? For me, yes, it is like that. It's not too much to say so. (Other parts what he wrote is fine with me. I could take them because more clearly he was talking about me as a performer.)

By watching only a stage, people might be able to write anything. But, where is the sensitivity? In my opinion, the expression that made me very upset (once again, it's because sounds like not only talking about me as a performer but also as if somehow talking about a fact of me/my personality), is most likely to hurt many Asian ladies, if they criticized in that way. Doesn't he think writing like that can be violence?

I have considered whether I should write this or not. For a while, I could not make my thoughts clear. I lost words. Again, the numbness came to me. Anyway, This is my thoughts. Finally I could write. Writing is also one of my therapeutic exercises (in English is still hard but I keep learning because I chose to stay here...)
Anyway... I should also continue to care to choose words to write something... because words can be a sharp knife.





So, I saw her again... finally.

Once I saw her face, no word came out of me for a while. Just... really could not say anything. She didn't look different at all. Of course, we both got older now than 16 years ago, but really not that much changed.

I felt "correct" to be with her so strongly/naturally.

We had a few hours to talk today, about our 16 years. What she and I have done.
Believe or not, we had lots of (really) common experiences for the sixteen years... Especially "father things". And also carrier choices. It was just something like, "No way! Too much, isn't it? Really? You had done that????" So, since our experiences have been strongly linked, we didn't have to explain much. When she told her experiences, I could feel it very easily. Vise Versa.

She has survived in her way. I also have done so in my way. And, we somehow moved to this country from Tokyo Japan to start doing something we really needed to do.
Of course, I (not only me, but also her) don't reach to my goal or anything like that. Just on the middle of the journey. I have been really working on my assignment very seriously. I felt she has been doing so too. It made me so, how can I say..., encouraged.. I won't give it up.

Our reunion was much deeper and stronger than something I could write here. Anyway, maybe some time I will be able to tell more about it... Moving on...




Could you believe this? Finally, I'll see her. Again.

I have some kind of sensitivity. I don't know what it is exactly but since I was a child, when I felt something unusual from someone or some places, they were usually something special to me. I found it out gradually.

Anyway, I met her sixteen years ago. There were around thirty people in the classroom. All actors and actresses. We had an acting workshop there. Once she came into the room, I already knew she and I had something strong bonds. I was kind of shocked by the sensation that I felt. Anyway, I didn't tell her about it right away. In any case, I was just so surprised. And something (I can't explain what it was... but something) was telling me about her. I didn't know why but I really got to know the one of her information because of that.

One day, finally I had a chance to talk to her. Usually I hesitated to open myself so immediately but there was no fence between us. I could be very comfortable with her. And I just mentioned her about the information of her that I got before. She wondered and asked, "Did I tell you about it already?" Yes, I found out that something I felt strongly was true. Hm... I kind of tried to see whether she felt too weird about me if I told her that I just naturally got to know it somehow... She seemed OK about it. I was glad...

One day, We went to a cafe to talk more about ourselves. In the pretty cafe in Daikanyama, Tokyo, when we were talking about our childhood memories, a glass vase next to us was just exploded. Yes, exploded. Water and the flowers (I think they were a few sunflowers) spread on the floor. It was a huge sound. A waitress ran to us to apologized about it. "Aren't you hurt? Sorry, something must be falling off and hit the vase..." But you know, we saw it. It was just exploded. There was nothing hit it.

I finally told her about my feeling that I got when I met her first time. "I think that we have strong bonds." In Japanese, it calls 縁 - En. She didn't refuse about it. Rather, she said that she knew a person who had that kind of strong sense. "So, do you want to meet him together?" Of course. So, we went to see him in Ikebukuro. He was saying, yes, we had strong bonds that would never be cut off. When we were born, already we had been connected. Her birthday is May 14th and mine is October 14th and the time of the birth are also having strong meanings or something like that. I do not know it's true or not, but I could not forget about it...

After the day, maybe around a month later, believe or not, we were attracted to same guy at the same time. And at the almost same time, we told our feelings to the guy in different places. We didn't know about it each other.  He was the only one who knew our feelings. He was so confused because two girls who were good friends mentioned that we liked him at the almost same time. But, anyway, he liked her more than me. So, I stepped out of their world. Sadly we had a distance after that. I felt very lonely but I understood their feelings. So I was separated from them.

Again around a month later, we had a big party at one of our common friend's house. I usually didn't go to the place many people were gathering but I decided to go to that one. And I saw she and he was together. That was for the first time in a long time to see them out side of the classroom. Anyway, we talked for a while. It was nice. I didn't care about that guy anymore but I wanted to talk to her for a long time.  But on that day, she looked weird. And finally she fell down on the floor. She said she had an anemia and therefore felt not good. So, she left earlier than anyone.

Actually, that was the last time to see her.

She just disappeared after that day. She stopped coming to the workshop. I wondered whether she was really sick and I asked the guy. But he said he didn't even know. Actually, when I met them at the party, they already had talked about breaking up. No one knew about her. I called her house but nobody took the phone calls. I wrote a letter to her house where she and her mother lived. But for a while I could not get anything from her.

Around a year later, I finally got a postcard from her. It was sent from NYC. NYC?! She wrote that she was learning dance and also teaching a dance class for kids in the NYC. She has been fine and sorry that she didn't contact me for a long time, something like that. And there was her apartment phone number. I called the number. Someone who could only speak in English was on the phone. I could not speak English at all at that time so I could not understand what the person said but somehow I figured out my friend didn't live there any more. I could not tell about myself so I could not give any information about me. She didn't write her home address. So, I could not write her too (Anyway, I thought that she didn't live there anymore...) I waited to hear from her but I got nothing after then.

Around ten years later, I decided to come to the US to learn something I really want to do for myself (It was photography). It was a huge life change to me. Really huge thing. Graduating from a college might not be that special thing to many people. BUT, for me, it had so many meanings. I had that moment in May 2009. I was officially graduated from my college. I felt an important chapter finished. So what? Move to next? But what is that? Where should I go??? What should I do? So unsure feeling... But at the same time, I felt strongly I have done something I decided in order to be re-born. (I know this might sound too much... But to me, it was really like that. I had a lots of reasons to do this.) I suddenly felt I needed to talk to her right now. About what I have decided and have done and I am now in the US, this is my life, and so on... I had a feeling that she was still in the US. So, I googled her name in English way. Her name is very common for Japanese people. There are lots of same name person. But I found her name among the search results. I knew that one was her. And I opened the page and saw the picture. BINGO! It was her. She has been teaching Yoga classes in Chicago. Chicago! Just five hours distance to get there from my house by a car! Wow... I called the Yoga studio but unfortunately she didn't work at the studio anymore. Anyway, I told the person on the phone about my phone number and asked the person when she comes or calls there, please let her know about my number.

Next day, I got a phone call. Guess what? That was her.  She told me that she has lived in Chicago still now. We had a long conversation finally.

And you know, today, she and her fiance came to Ypsilanti because of his job. Ypsilanti?! It was the town where I live now. Wow.... You know, this country IS huge. He has a job in Ypsilanti????? See, we have some kind of strong bonds, for sure.

So, I finally will see her tomorrow. 16 years, I haven't seen her. Oh... wow.... Finally... This is amazing... really. This kind of thing has happened to my life once in a while... (this "strong bonds" type of thing, has happened three times in my life. Twice in Japan. And third one in here)

(felt too weird? I hope not...)




Middle of Nowhere...

One more video from the greenfield. (camera/direct - Eric Perry, edit - me)

This beautiful music is written by Rosendo E. Santos, JR. He is my father in law whom I don't have a chance to meet. Anyway, he left many beautiful music pieces... So, I asked my husband to use one of his pieces for the footage that Eric and I have shot.

These footage are including Eric's favorites. Really, his camera works are great... Interestingly, when we shot these parts, we had NO idea what they were going to be. "What are we doing? But anyway let's continue to do!" Something like that... (Cotton Candy parts are more, something at least I knew what the outcome would be - some parts, still I didn't have any idea, though...)

After completed the first video, Eric told me that I didn't use his favorite footage for the Cotton Candy one. I knew it but I could not use them because they didn't fit anywhere in that song in my mind. After this melody popped up in my mind, immediately all images linked together. Once started editing, so quickly tied up. That's a good sign, I guess...

By the way, I really love the Italian movie "La Strada" from my heart. Actually when I was editing this, I was thinking about her, Gelsomina. Yes, the lonely abandoned girl (her age, maybe "lady" is more appropriate, but she is a "forever girl".) Because of her friend, she somehow found out even such a small pebble has a meaning to exist in this world. It is just amazing to see her (the slight change in her!) The ending of the movie is painfully sad but at least she once felt she also has a meaning of staying there, in her life. Hm... wow...




Cotton Candy World...

I wrote this song the beginning of this year. I didn't expect that I could make a video like this! Thank you Eric! Yes, my photographer friend, Eric Perry suddenly took me to the field to do the video shooting. All improvisations. He calls doing this kind of collaboration as "Creative Celebration" I love the naming...

A day later, I was in a daydream. Concentrated on something I could feel/see/touch in the world. I was there with myself at four years old. Originally she was in a storage room of the place and drawing something on sheets of paper. She was so concentrated on what she was doing. I didn't want to interrupted her. For a while, I was observing her. And next moment, I strongly felt that I had to take her out side of the room. I jumped into the room from a big window and hold her hand and... Ran together. It was actually great feeling... No conversation between us. But I knew she was pretty comfortable with me. Looked around and felt her new place. I felt mother kind of love to her and started to be confused. So confused. Many questions, even angers. Anger? I don't know how to explain. But, I really wanted to protect her from any of the darkness behind her.

OK, I stop now...

If someone read this, I guess that they think... "What the hell...? Is Toko OK?"

I have no comment for that...

I'm on the way of my journey. I guess...

What can I really see? Where am I truly?
Asking and thinking... and moving forward...