Japan: A gay Japanese photographer who won a prestigious award for his photo book on his life hopes the recognition will help gay people feel at ease with their identity and withstand society’s prejudice against them.
“I hope my winning the prize will help encourage young (gay) people” and help others envisage the lives of gay people in Japan, 37-year-old Eiki Mori told japantimes.co.jp.
His collection of photographs titled “intimacy” portrays the daily life of a young gay photographer and his partner and won this year’s prestigious Kimura Ihei Award.
Mori recalled that as a young boy in elementary school he realized he was different from the people around him and felt guilty about his sexual orientation. Unfortunately he had no one to talk to about what he was going through. “I was lonely,” he said.
It was only after he went to the United States to study that he was able to come out of the closet as he met gay people who were quite open about their sexuality.
“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.”
The Kimura Ihei Award is a Japanese photographic award that attracts the attention of the mass media and named after Ihei Kimura, one of the most celebrated Japanese photographers of the twentieth century. The award is given to one or more new photographers whose work has been exhibited or published during the previous year.
Recently, Mori has been working on the theme of marriage. He and his partner staged a photo session wearing traditional wedding attire in front of the Japanese Diet so as to urge the government to legislate for gay marriages. Mori said he intends to make similar efforts to spread his message.
“I hope to instill my message in people naturally,” Mori told japantimes.co.jp.
A recent nationwide poll found 74.6 percent of the 1,744 people surveyed think society is either unkind or somewhat unkind to gay and transsexual people. On same-sex marriage, which is not legally recognized in Japan, 52.4 percent said they oppose or somewhat oppose it.
Same-sex relations was legalized way back in 1880 in Japan and although Japanese culture does not have a history of hostility toward LGBT people, they nonetheless lack legal recognition and are often subjected to social discrimination.