In Mayu, Japanese photographer Sayuri Ichida reinterpreted the notion of migration. A beautiful project, mixing solitude, strength and dance.

Born in Fukuoka, Japan, photographer Sayuri Ichida moved to New York in 2012. Two years later, she shifted her focus away from commercial photography, to pursue more personal projects. “What most draws me to take pictures are the simple moments in everyday life. There is a soft, unspoken beauty in simplicity”, Sayuri Ichida tells us. Shot in film, her pictures enhance, with a unique grain, the characters she stages.

Mayu – the model who gave the series her name – and the photographer met through their husbands, who were ex-roommates. Ballet dancer and fellow migrant, the young woman inspired Sayuri Ichida to build a project around her talent for dance. “This series is an expression of our shared immigrant experience”, the artist explains. Her face hidden, her body contorting, Mayu deconstructs the classicism of classical dance.

Strength and precision

“In these images, I purposefully treat her as an object in a frame and challenge her to go outside her comfort zone and do things differently from her formal training as a ballerina”, Sayuri Ichida says. Stuck in uncomfortable positions, Mayu’s body evoke the solitude immigrants feel. The neutral and stripped-down settings enhance this sense of alienation. “She is always alone in the frame and her posture looks like she is struggling but at the same time trying to overcome those feelings”, adds Sayuri.

Although Mayu’s poses were not inspired by classical dance, the young woman’s strength and precision are undeniable. A power illustrating the will of migrants to fit in a new culture, overcoming obstacles. The originality of the positions, popular in contemporary dance, brings to mind a certain freedom. A hopeful attempt to let go. By capturing Mayu in this minimal and warm-toned environment, Sayuri Ichida has written a fascinating character, fragile, delicate and fierce at the same time.

© Sayuri Ichida