A collection of photographs titled “intimacy” that portrays the daily life of a young gay photographer and his partner has won this year’s prestigious Kimura Ihei Award.
“I hope my winning the prize will help encourage young (gay) people” and help others envisage the lives of gay people in Japan, said 37-year-old Eiki Mori.
As a young boy in elementary school, Mori realized he was different from the people around him and felt guilty about his sexual orientation. He had no one to talk to about what he was going through. “I was lonely,” he said.
But after he went to the United States to study at Parsons the New School for Design in New York, he was able to come out of the closet as he met gay people who were quite open about their sexuality.
Looking back on his days in New York, Mori said he was somewhat euphoric. “I made myself super busy, as though I was trying to regain myself,” he said. During that time he took photos only of men.
Before compiling his prize-winning collection, Mori had been trying to present gay men as “special and beautiful” human beings. But after so many photo sessions, which Mori describes as “collaborative works with a third party,” he said he started to be able to accept himself the way he is.
“I have finally come to a point where I can allow myself to be just another person,” Mori said. “Maybe that’s why I was able to create a work about my personal life.” Every photo in “intimacy” is fresh and exudes warmth.
Recently Mori has been working on the theme of marriage. He and his partner staged a photo session wearing wedding attire in front of the Japanese Diet building in an attempt to urge the government to legislate for gay marriages in Japan. Mori said he intends to make similar efforts to spread his message.
The young photographer referred to artist Yoko Ono as one of his role models, saying she would use humor to deliver her messages. “I hope to instill my message in people naturally and lightly,” Mori said.