Yu-san is a photographer who is active here on Yakushima. She shows up for a shoot with a big smile on her face in spite of the heavy equipment she is carrying. In a soft voice she says, “I’ll take your picture now” and her subject relaxes, and their expression becomes more natural.


Yu-san moved to Yakushima in 2008. Before then, she worked in a photography studio in Tokyo as an assistant to a fashion photographer. Now, she can be found on and off the island, camera in hand, taking wedding photos, commemorative photos, photos for travel and other island quarterlies, and photos for exhibitions here on the island and abroad.

When she lived in Tokyo with its abundance of fads and information, Yu-san used to ask herself if she really liked photography. Wanting to confirm her feelings with a change in environment, she got a part-time job here on the island. When she wasn’t working, she played with local kids and went fishing with the locals as well. And in the course of these interactions with the islanders, her doubts vanished.


Photograph by Yu

“In big cities, there’s a border between people and nature. Here on the island, no such border exists. The children here know how to play in nature, and the adults are making things that make use of the island’s natural resources. Rather than buy things they don’t have, people make them. When I came to the island and started photographing the people here, I realized that as long as I have my camera in hand I’ll be happy wherever I go. My camera is a part of me.”

Yu-san takes two kinds of photographs. The first kind is an expression her inner self. The second is an expression of that which is being asked or required of her. “Living away from competition and trends, living in nature, the way I express myself has become more straightforward. I feel that I’ve become more balanced in my approach to taking photographs.”

Her working partner, her Leica SUMMILUX50mm, also contributes to the quality of her expression.


写真「山と霧」Photograph by Yu


写真「ガイドブック」Photograph by Yu

“When I photograph a person, I take care to find their finest look. I hope that more people will see my photographs and like and enjoy them.” A 1-year-old boy sits beside Yu-san as she works. As a mother, I imagine that her range of expression will expand even more.

Written by Sanpo-tei, Rei Ogata