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Juxtapoz Magazine – Mikiko Hara: Invisible Moments

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“…beyond any of those details of the real, there are dreams. And everyone’s living in them.” —Haruki Murakami, Kafka’s Shore

A moment is followed by another, except in a photo. Maybe, because can a single moment exist in solitude? Life is rarely experienced in real-time; it’s so often a continuous blend of present, past, and future perspectives. As our brains filter and process the complexity of living in the world, thoughts race to catch up with time. Everything overlaps. We’re here, but we’re also elsewhere.

Mikiko Hara’s photographs mirror this unpredictable ebb and flow of experience. These are not moments taken from the world. They are reflections of it. The people seem suspended as if the time had suddenly changed directions. They don’t appear lost in thought, but rather floating along with its current. A small child stands with its eyes closed in the warm glow from the sun. A woman’s attention is caught by something just off-frame. Golden flowers fly past a train’s window. A koi press its face against the walls of its little world. A man turns, his gaze meets the lens. Inside looking out or outside looking in. All are unaware of the precise moment illuminated by a shutter. One moment to another, to the past and to the future; this is how it usually goes.

Mikiko’s eyes and the camera’s viewfinder rarely, if ever, meet. Their connection is more perceptual than ocular—a relationship born from coincidence but bound by instinct. “I am the one operating the camera,” she says, “but which part of the image I was looking at and which part the camera was looking at remains undifferentiated for me.” It’s a collaboration with chance, an instant that exists between seeing and feeling, decision and serendipity, ones that transcend the photographer, subject, and viewer. “I want to escape from controlling the image with my own ideas. Perhaps it is fair to say,” she concludes, “that I have intended the unintentional.”

Connections form themselves. We begin to notice new things everywhere after we learn something. Maybe it was always there. It’s an illusion of frequency, a cognitive bias; what we see is never entirely objective. But that not-quite-articulable sensation of noticing—that out-of-nowhere feeling of an idea emerging, of intuition glimmering—carries a certain depth of authenticity found nowhere else. In a world of readily available answers, it’s an argument for uncertainty, for curiosity, and coincidence. “The camera is somewhat like a black box for me,” Hara says. “I feel that it brings something that goes beyond me, without me being able to clearly grasp what is happening.” Looking at her images is to wander in a mysterious daydream. She is the author of this dream, but it’s not hers or that of those whose lives are being observed. Photographs are memories of moments that have been lived, but not necessarily experienced. Maybe they make more sense than the world they’re collected from. It’s rare evidence, not of any one person’s reality but of this strange setting where we all happen to intersect—a place of magic, miracle, and of myth.  —Alex Nicholson

Mikiko Hara’s latest book, Small MythsThe magazine is published by Choose Commune. This article was originally printed in our WINTER 2024 Quarterly


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