Hajime Kimura – Matagi

Hajime Kimura


Man lives freely only by his readiness to die.
-Mahatma Gandhi

One winter day, we pursued black-bears in the deep forest. Nothing around, the sun shining and the air crisp. We had barely eaten anything in more than 4 days. We were just exhausted.

Suddenly one of the Matagi mumbled, having a faraway look on his face.
“What’s that something moving?”

There were, no doubt, two black-bears crossing the iced river.
Once it was made sure with the binocle, they quickly dispersed to their own positions, against the side of the chine, at 1~5km from here.

And it meant the fighting was starting.

The chief of MATAGI had the last word to go away,”We’re being just for this time.”

Originally, the self-sufficient males living in the deep forest and mountains areas were called “MATAGI” in Japanese. They represent one of the indigenous tribes. Before the 1960’s, most of them lived almost without money.

However, the situation changed in the 1970’s, during the high economic growth. Some of them moved to towns in order to find more modern and comfortable jobs. As the years passed, the Matagi have been considered only as a kind of hunters living in rural areas of Japan. Nowadays, they are facing a possible extinction of their traditions.




Hajime Kimura, born in 1982, in the Chiba prefecture next to Tokyo.

In 2005, he graduated from architecture at Shibaura Institute of Technology in Tokyo.

Since 2006 he has actively photographed Asian countries, including China, Southeast Asia and Japan. He wishes to express the invisible reality of human existence in the world with photography, and aspires to commit to his subjects as best as possible.


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Hajime Kimura


21 Responses to “Hajime Kimura – Matagi”

  • Nice to see such a radically different perspective. Nice and terse, too. That said, 4, 6 and 12, although well-done in the standard sense, stick out as relatively tame compared to the rest. Perhaps if it were even a little more terse, even a little less standard, it might be even more compelling. Excellent, as is though.

  • Gilden and Salgado on LSD. More bad technique than art, I’m afraid.

  • A silently told story of a dying culture.
    I seem to be a tame person, as #4,6, and 14 are those I like much. Maybe I have to look more times.
    With this story, I think text and pictures go well together.


  • MW

    coulda been cut a bit more i agree….but i like to give you all something to do!!


    pretty bad sky photoshopping “burning in” i agree…still a few really nice images, imo, and i just did not know about this culture…so from an info standpoint has some merit…..


    i would have liked a more complete text…text a really big problem for us….i think we will just have to publish fewer stories here in the future just so we can get better text…..rarely does a photographer have any sense of the written word…if more photographers read more, they would be better writers i think….and get more of their work published….generally great photo essays still need great text….

  • To Jim’s point about technique, one always wonders, but I see at least 1000 photographers with excellent technique for every one I come across with great vision and composition, so I tend to be a bit lenient on that score if at all possible. Still, since you mentioned Salgado and some of his Siberian photos are in today’s Washington Post, I can’t help noting how truly awe inspiring it is when world class technique and vision come together. A sight to behold.

    With this, I wonder about the difference between the visual and the literal storytelling. As David notes, it’s a very interesting story literally. A largely unknown people living forgotten lives in a remote, beautiful part of the world. I’d like to know more about them. Visually, the photographer tells a dramatic abstract story of darkness and light and lines and forms. It’s a difficult job to marry the two radically different forms of storytelling into the same story. I think the artist statement is a start in the right direction. Starts out literary then zooms back to journalistically explain the bigger picture. The captions, however, just don’t work. Too much like an old guy in a white lab coat monotonously explaining what it’s like for someone else to have an LSD trip. imho


    does it not create opportunities for workshops like “literal storytelling for photographers” or “express your pictures with text”? Certainly an area I am really struggling with. Sometimes, I am thinking to write my text in German first, then translate – on the other side, I was never a great writer. Not sure reading alone would help – certainly the books I read in the past did not help either .. “The mythical man-month”, “Peopleware”, ..
    anyway .. this is another item to add to my list of skills to develop in 2013:
    greek language
    french language

    any hints what to read?

  • Fascinating story. Great to see this here, congratulations Hajime.

    Although I am normally not a fan the “soot and whitewash” school of photography I like this delightful little essay very much. It is refreshing and feels somehow very Japanese.

    OK, there are some tech issues, and maybe the edit could be tighter, but it leaves me wanting more, and going back to view again and again.


  • mw
    I actually love the captions, “each Matagi has his own dog that is so competent”, now how delightful is that? I hear a lovely soft Japanese accent in my head when I read them.

  • While the reverse dropout of the first picture, while strong graphically, puzzles me a bit and seems incongruous to the remaining images, I find each image striking, full of stories. As for the text, it is sparse but, as Gordon states, evocative. Given the fact it was written by a Native Japanese speaker, I think he did okay.

  • very fresh prospective and calm work… I’ve enjoyed it very much.

    Thank you.

  • The issue of captioning comes up often, and yet is not resolved.

    It is unreasonable to expect a non-English speaking photographer to write clear, concise captions, often with just Google translate to help.

    That’s why God made editors. BURN carefully edits the photos, why not the captions? There are plenty of good writers right here in the comments section who might well be willing to lend a hand. Not to interpret the photos, but to aid the photographer in properly phrasing the interpretation in English.

    These essays have already become a collaborative act with the photo editors–why not add a level of professionalism and include writing editors, too? Do the shooters for NatGeo write all their own captions?

  • Anyone in Tokyo might want to have a look at the exhibition.. for the others there’s book:


  • I like Chairman’s idea for burn to have a captions editor and I am happy to volunteer Imants for the job. Seriously. That could be great.

    My criticism of the captions in this essay has nothing to do with English proficiency. Although I share Gordon’s affection for the dog picture example (that is indeed a great caption), many of the rest are simple, superficial descriptions of what we can plainly see in the photo. That, or a downer like attempt to define a wildly abstract image that goes beyond any possible explanation. Unless one is going for some kind of meta deadpan humor by simply describing what anyone can plainly see, I generally think it best to let the photo speak for itself. If the photographs are so visual that they go beyond any possibility of literal explication, then it’s probably best to deal with it in the artist statement.

    Love this image from Eva’s link.

  • This does not seem like an LSD trip to me at all.
    It’s pretty straight forward…abstract at times but it follows a narrative pretty well.

    #8 does it for me. A truly amazing shot. Nice an cinematic.

  • Hajime-sAn! :))

    so happy to see this story here…though, i wish the WHOLE thing had been shown…i want to write alot about both the project and the style, but i’ve made a new year’s resolution to not write anymore, so this may be the last time, so let me just say this…

    thE WORST thing about criticism is that it way too often defined by a reader’s/critic’s solipsism…in other words, the reader/critic looks through the lens of only their perception/receptivity…(this is find, of course, for the ‘i like/dont like’ or ‘i get/dont get’ orientation, but when it comes to technique or aesthetic choices, this fails if a reader doesnt take into consideration that choices come from the artist for a number of reasons, historical, contextual, educational etc….

    the visual aspects of these images are clearly related to an entire history of Japanese Provoke-era/Photobook aesthetic and technique, which sought to press the bounds of ‘flatness’…pictures that looked like newspapers, ink calligraphy etc…

    to site 2 famous examples: Araki’s book and exhibition of Xerox photographs….Moriyama’s printing of his NYC ’71 entirely on xerox copies of the prints…not even to mention what Hosoe did…and let’s not even chat about what Giacomelli did with his prints…

    why is the reaction immediately to ‘over-photoshopped’?….in a book project of my own, i made many of the prints with Red Filter (darkroom) turned all the way up so that the prints looked like paper, graphic…and also, i copied some of the small prints on xerox too and scanned them…just a technique trying to get at, well, something beyond the versimilitude of the ‘photographic’ print…

    how to capture ritual, how to capture death, how to capture this hunt and the ancestory and the meaning?…these, seem to me, are part of all the choices that Hajime has made, on top of the fact that clearly he is steeped in this extraordinary Japanese photobook tradition….

    incredibly beautiful photographs, and richly thoughtful approach to the subject, by subverting the need to document the specifics by using the boundaries of what film/camera + printing process can do…..

    and the captions….anyone familiar with the use of language?….specifics of Hajime’s text….

    as i’ll writer, i’ll also say: i prefer this text to most of the stuff i’ve read here over the last 4 years….

    sometimes complexity is essential, sometimes simplicity, both require an open approach with words…nothing obfuscating at all, to that a success….

    congratulations Hajime…i’m so happy to see this here, even in its short, haiku-form…

    nice to end on a positive note….

    all the best

  • Bob, two things – first, I hope you don’t keep that resolution and I’m pretty confident you won’t. Second, I was kind of amazed to read it because just one minute before, thinking about how much time it takes and how seldom I really have anything of value to add to the discussio/critique, since I pretty much like everything I see and usually comment now only because I kind of feel like I have to, I found myself contemplating that same resolution.

  • Well I like the images which some have complained about more than the usual BW stuff. I get the impression this photographer “lost” himself whilst out there making some of these photos and in my opinion that’s brilliant like getting into the zone.
    Now Bob, I just wish you would make a New Years resolution promising not to bother about promising to stop writing on Burn ever again, because nobody round here wants you stop, we need your wise words and occasional video links.

  • I thought Bob’s comment about this essay being an example of working in a tradition interesting. Though I have no knowledge of the Japanese photo tradition to which he refers, much less how Hajime Kimura fits into it, I found this comment by Ralph Ellison in Paris Review enlightening on the subject of technique and tradition:


    How does Picasso fit into all this?


    Why, he’s the greatest wrestler with forms and techniques of them all. Just the same, he’s never abandoned the old symbolic forms of Spanish art: the guitar, the bull, daggers, women, shawls, veils, mirrors. Such symbols serve a dual function: they allow the artist to speak of complex experiences and to annihilate time with simple lines and curves; and they allow the viewer an orientation, both emotional and associative, which goes so deep that a total culture may resound in a simple rhythm, an image.

    I think Ellison’s got it right. One’s work can be traditional and still look quite different from anything that came before. Maybe that’s what separates the timeless from the quotidian.

  • It is impossible to see this and not read a kinship with the high-contrast “Provoke” photographers of Japan such as Takuma Nakahira and Shomei Tomatsu. Others have used this visual language to good effect and the effect is strong here as well. It would be interesting to hear from the photographer why they chose this approach and more about how it shows how things feel rather than how they literally appear. The genealogy of this approach interests me–I would trace it from Klein, through Japan, and back to Sobol and others such as Tomasz Lazar. Intentional roughness and contrast excavate the inner rather than apparent nature of things.

  • M. Avina – my first thoughts exactly.

    Image #8 is killer, BTW…

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