Just prior to the start of 2010, I was asked by the editor of "The Hawaii Herald" to submit bi-monthly, a photograph along with a caption to this journal covering Hawaii's Japanese-American community. The column was known as "Sato Shashin-ya" and ran for a year on the last page of each issue.
Contrary to the popular adage "a picture is worth a thousand words," my desire to enrich the viewing experience of the image prompted the need for a "frame of words," if you will, and with each successive submission the captions steadily lengthened, eventually evolving into essays.
An epiphany that arose out of this attempt at writing was that composing visual elements into a coherent image was surprisingly similar to articulating/composing through the written word. Just as a minute shift in camera position could dramatically alter the balance of an image, the nuances of word choice could paint a thought with varying levels of precision.
Brian Yoichi Sato is a photographer who masquerades as a writer by composing interminably long captions for his images. Based on Oahu, Hawai‘i, he is a fourth-generation descendant of Chōjiro Sato, who emigrated to Hawai‘i from Fukushima, Japan in 1899 to labor in the sugar cane fields of Lahaina, Maui. In 2002, he initiated a personal project to photographically document the Nisei (second generation Japanese Americans) of Hawaii, which continued until 2010. In 2007, the exhibition “GOKURŌSAMA, Contemporary Photographs of the Nisei in Hawaii,” was curated from images completed during the first several years of the project, and made its debut at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i. Subsequently, it has traveled to venues in Hawai‘i and the mainland U.S., including the Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles, in 2009. He has also exhibited in Paris & Tokyo.
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