Alpinist-photog Noguchi focuses on life, death

by Tetsuji Ida

Kyodo

Ken Noguchi, a prominent alpinist and camera enthusiast, recently published a photo book with the theme of life and death, encompassing journeys to mountaintops and areas of the Tohoku region devastated by the March 2011 tsunami.

Noguchi, 40, gained renown in 1999 at age 25 by becoming the youngest person to scale the highest mountains on all seven continents. He is also known for organizing projects to clean up Mount Everest and Mount Fuji.

The book, “Noguchi Ken ga Mita Sekai — Into the World” (“The World Through the Eyes of Ken Noguchi — Into the World”), is his first collection of photos. The photos capture visits to the Himalayas, Africa, Okinawa and the Philippines, including projects to collect the remains of Japanese soldiers.

Born in Boston in 1973, Noguchi was in his junior high and high school photography clubs. He said a single-lens reflex camera that “I made my father promise to get me when he was drunk,” used to be his treasure.

Since he started mountaineering, however, Noguchi stopped taking photos. He explained that the purpose of climbing was to reach the destination as fast as possible, leaving no time to shoot photos.

But, he said, having resumed photography about four years ago, “I realized that there are beautiful moments I had never noticed even in such places as the Himalayas I had visited very often.”

Noguchi said his book’s key theme is death. It includes images such as the skeletal remains of a climber on Everest, the partly buried head of a dead woman in a flood-stricken village and dead livestock left behind amid the nuclear crisis in Fukushima.