Search
Close this search box.

Kosuke Okahara : Vanishing Existence

Kosuke Okahara is a Japanese photographer who covers social issues in the tradition of humanistic documentary photography. Okahara is a winner of PDN's 30, Joop Swart Masterclass of World Press Photo, Eugene Smith Fellowship, Getty Images Grant, and Pierre & Alexandra Boulat Award.

Japan – I traveled with Kosuke Okahara to visit ex-leprosy colonies located in the far corners of rural China. The only thing that these ex-patients had in common with each other was that they all once had the same disease.There was a time when the world considered leprosy to be a serious health issue that caused fear among society. Despite this fear ex-patients tend to live quietly in the final part of their lives.

The term Third World is today considered by some to be outdated and as a result a new term, the Fourth World, is being used to describe slum areas in third world countries that are lagging behind in economic development as well as Sub-Saharan Africa, inner city ghettos in the United States, and immigration centers for illegal immigrants in Europe.

                              Vanishing Existence © Kosuke Okahara

One of the characteristics of this new Fourth World is that people are excluded from professions, medical care, and generally any form of social life. In a social context they are not really alive, but then they are not dead either. This reminds me of the leprosy colonies that used to exist throughout the world and if the only conclusion is death for such ‘victims’ then I consider the 30,000 Japanese people who commit suicide every year as part of this new Fourth World.

Does the end of leprosy mean that the human race has achieved one of its main medical goals or does it mean the beginning of a history without any negativity? If we are waiting for the death of ex-patients, and the end of Leprosy, then it is similar to the Fourth World – a space of exclusion.

There were eleven ex-patients living in the village on the other side of the river and we were told that this was the first time they had been visited by foreigners. When our visit was coming to a close they came to say goodbye. When I looked back at the village from our small unsteady rowboat I saw old houses almost to the point of ruin. I’m sure there were people living there. Despite being excluded from society and discriminated against they were open towards strangers like us. The barrier that divided them from society was something other than the width of the river.

I was finishing the journey and witnessing the death of a disease but it felt strange to know that the villagers have not crossed the river in decades, a crossing that had only taken me a few minutes.

Text by Takeshi Nishio

Vanishing Existence – Forgotten leprosy villages in China
A limited edition book on China’s forgotten leprosy colonies has been published. This is the very first publication from the BACKYARD PROJECT Publishing from Japan.

Photography, Photos, concept & design: Kosuke Okahara
Publisher: BACKYARD PROJECT
ISBN : 978-4-907335-01-4
Date: 25 August, 2013
Printed country: Japan
# of pages; 40 pages
Size: 14,8 x 21 cm ( A5 )
Edition: 110 All signed & stamped by the author
(10 out of 110 copies are special editions)
Price: 35€ + Shipping (Sold Out)

Photography

Related Posts

Roger Ballen: ‘Maybe I can speak goat, and I can speak a little chicken’

South Africa –    Celebrated Photographer Roger Ballen has been photographing for around 50 years mostly in Johannesburg, South Africa. …

The Plight of the Pathans – Hossein Fatemi

Afghanistan – Afghanistan used to be a peaceful country, popular with hippies coming from Europe and South East Asia. But …

Oscar Monzon: KARMA

Spain –  In Karma, a project developed in Madrid between 2009 and 2013, Óscar Monzón focuses on the car as a …

Thomas Sauvin : Silvermine

China – Silvermine is a set of five photo albums each containing 20 prints. The negatives were salvaged from a …

Life after the Iron Curtain – Jutta Benzenberg

Albania – Albanian documentary photographer Jutta Benzenberg’s photographs tell the story of her country and its people through three books …

Frederic Lezmi: Taksim Calling

Turkey –  Taksim Calling is an unconventional poster book that contrasts spontaneously taken iPhone pictures of  the Gezi protests by …

TiTo Mouraz: Open Space Office

Portugal – The series presented here was shot in Portugal over a 3-year period and represents a transformed landscape that portrays …

Tim Richmond: ‘Last Best Hiding Place’ – Exploring the Longstanding Myth of the American West

USA –  Deserted streets with beer cans blowing down the road…a cowboy washing his shirts…a train on its way into …

Colin Pantall on Kevin Griffin’s Last Man Standing

Ireland –  Isolated islands off the Irish coast? There are a few that come to mind. Craggy Island is one …