The photographic work of Shanghai-based artist Yuan Yao is moving in its intimacy. In ‘Nami’ his lens captures the poetry of motherhood; an awakening imbued with both melancholy and joy.
After conversing with Yao, the significance of the series in both an artistic and personal sense became increasingly evident—and it was decided that his own words speak best about ‘Nami’, they follow here. I met my friend Nami through a mutual friend, whom Nami wanted her pregnancy photos to be taken by in the first place, at that time she wasn’t pregnant but had always wanted children so they made a promise. Not long after a sudden loss of our mutual friend’s life, Nami suddenly got pregnant. We met and decided to take photographs together.
At first, we were just meeting each other a lot in her small apartment in Tokyo, not really having clear ideas on what to do but to take photographs we thought were beautiful or fun. As it gradually became one of our routines, we started to have more documentary images and most importantly started to gain a deeper understanding towards each other, and noticed the images started to develop a narrative.
The idea of telling stories of individuals has always fascinated me. Nami and I, along with another friend who had always been there to help us with the shoot and of course together later taking care of the baby, started to travel every month to different locations inside Japan to document her journey. We especially went to Fuji a lot since it’s her hometown and she later moved back there. The whole process was marvelous, sometimes very spiritual. We once got lost and witnessed red Mount Fuji right in front us and a dairy cow giving birth and the calf standing up, it was on Nami’s birthday, oddly enough her Chinese zodiac sign is the ox. It was very uplifting experience and there were many like this.
As much it was personal I believe there was also something very human—the way that we bonded, the feeling that life was always present and love was around. Although it wasn’t romantic we definitely have found ourselves in each other through what we went through together. With the now five-month-old child’s presence we feel a lot like family, I found myself becoming his father figure, which definitely has challenged our perception towards what family really means to us. We would sometimes deliberately act like a conventional family of three when we go out to parks together where there are always many “real” families, it makes us laugh.
All images © Yuan Yao