March 30th - June 2nd, 2018

sepiaEYE is honored to present Osamu James Nakagawa’s second solo exhibition in the gallery, Kai Series. Kai is Nakagawa’s ongoing, now twenty-year long exploration and visual meditation on the circular nature of change within the family. Presented both as a diary of his immediate relatives and as a shared humanistic narrative, the series resonates with a deeply felt emotional gravity.

Nakagawa began the project in 1998 during a challenging time in his life, when his father was diagnosed with cancer and his wife Tomoko was pregnant with their daughter, Hikari. In Nakagawa’s words — “Photographing became a way for me to ‘slow down’ and question the changes that were bringing a different rhythm to my life. I began to realize the importance of preserving and creating memories by constructing visual connections and relationships between my family members. As I observe my daughter grow, I have become interested in questioning the link between the self, parent, and child. Through this cycle of age, I began to recognize time as being circular where the beginning and end can occur simultaneously. Kai is the circle that keeps turning.”

In 2010, as his mother’s health began to decline and his daughter graduated
high school, Nakagawa returned to his camera to process another difficult
period in the same way as before. Continuing to document the family in square format but now in digital color, his focus was primarily on the intersection of
mother at the end of her life as his daughter, her granddaughter, was moving
away to college. The color photographs echo the early black-and-white familial scenes: beautifully composed, relatable, tender. We see Hikari now as a young woman with milestones being documented (graduation, prom) alongside Nakagawa’s mother and an inventory of her life: a tangle of nylons spread on
bed sheets, the fading yet direct gaze of her eye, and the hands that once, as a
young mother, held the artist.

The accompanying video piece Breath made in collaboration with Rachel Lin Weaver takes on a somewhat harsh but dreamlike look at life: “Right before my mother passed away  ...  she was breathing heavily, and I was talking to her while I took photographs. I probably took fifty images with  a very slow shutter, intentionally blurring the image to visualize my emotion. Final Conversation is the only one where she is making eye contact with me.”  — OSAMU JAMES NAKAGAWA

The images in Kai create a culturally transcendent conversation about the
intimate relationships between generations, the layers of connection and independence, the changing of roles from child to caretaker, whilst being a
poignant recognition of our individual histories and our ancestors.


Nakagawa’s Kai series can be seen in A Shared Elegy, an exhibition and publication weaving four photographers’ overlapping visions of their families. Nakagawa, his uncle, Takayuki Ogawa, Elijah Gowin and his father, Emmet Gowin are included in this project with essays by Yoshiko Suzuki and Joel Smith (Indiana University Press, 2017). Copies of the book will be available for sale at the gallery.

Osamu James Nakagawa is the Ruth N. Halls Distinguished Professor of Photography at Indiana University, where he co-directs the Center for Integrative Photographic Studies. He is a recipient of the 2009 Guggenheim Fellowship, the 2010 Higashikawa New Photographer of the Year, and 2015 Sagamihara Photographer of the Year. Nakagawa’s work has been exhibited internationally and is in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; George Eastman Museum, Rochester; Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Sakima Art Museum, Okinawa; The Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; and others.

Osamu James Nakagawa

Exhibition dates: March 30th - June 2nd, 2018

Opening Reception: Thursday, March 29th, 2o18 6-8PM  

Press Release (PDF) 

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