The original inspiration for this project was around 10 years ago, when I had the opportunity to photograph local children in Phuket, Thailand. When I was going to have four girls wearing uniforms stand in front of the wall of the school so I could take their photo, suddenly I had an idea. What if I mixed local fruits into the photo? Trying the idea, the children who had at first had normal expressions suddenly changed to indescribable, tasteful expressions as soon as fruit was placed between them. In that moment, I strongly felt that the individuality of each was distinct.
After a while, I tried taking photos of Japanese children. As I was going through several attempts, I realized that although matching the situation by using the same clothing, the same background, the same movements, and the same lighting apparently seemed to make them lose their individuality, in reality it actually brought out their individuality.
I restricted the subjects to girls from the age of 3 years 3 months where they could just barely take a photo with fruit sandwiched between their shoulders to 5 years old. When taking the photos, I asked the children to follow two conditions. The first was to stand facing straight ahead as best they could, and the second was to sandwich fruit between their shoulders. Those were the only conditions, but nearly all of the children were unable to manage facing the camera while sandwiching fruit between their shoulders.
Sometimes a child would start crying and nothing could be done, and I had to try three times on different days, and some children refused to let go of their mothers’ hands, so I had to take the photo while having the mothers lie down on the floor with only their hands reaching up. As they become focused on trying to sandwich the fruit, the children’s expressions gradually and unconsciously show how they are trying their best. The simpler I made the situation and conditions, the more strongly the unconscious facial expressions of the children appeared.
At first, over several attempts of trial and error, I spent a year and a half taking the photos of 100 children, but I was convinced that I had to take the photos of a larger number, and ended up taking the photos of 1000 children over about five years. As I proceeded, I realized that times when the children were in an unconscious state showed their individuality more, and I became certain of this by the end. think that everyone has an unconscious part of their mind and body, and by this method it is possible to show that part, at least for an instant.