Untitled.Showa is a project for making new meanings and solving a mystery and through found photographs. Contributors interact (can be online) with a collection of old photographs from Japan, found in Australia, to solve a historic puzzle. In tandem are workshops, online story telling and cross-cultural networking.

Background: Today, over 1.8 billion images are uploaded daily on the net. Individual photos are now seen on in split seconds, and without reflection. Although there are many merits to our new found quick and easy photographic experiences, both to view, to take, and “like”, we have lost the power of reflective slow photographic viewing experiences, considered knowledge of why we take them, and what could inspire us into action upon our reflections.

Artefacts: A collection of old photographs was found in a flea market in country Victoria. They were photographs of Japanese people taken in Japan, mostly from the 1930’s to 1960s. The same people appeared in different situations, giving the impression they were from one family. The stallholder said that the photographs came from a deceased estate in Geelong; that was all he knew.

Aim: To explore ways to view photographs slowly and reflectively, to find clues and stories emerging from them by collectively finding ways to (re)patriate the found original prints to the family, the copyright holder, or an archive, and participate and contribute in the unfolding of contemporary stories that give new meaning and a place for these once lost photographs.

Some Initial Questions to Explore: Who are the people in the photographs? What were these photographs doing in Geelong? How could we locate the people in the photographs or the photographer/s and their descendants? Should they be returned to someone in Japan? Should items lost or forgotten be left alone? What would the outcome be if the processes of asking and answering these questions involved many people? What could we see in a particular photo or a set of photographs, which inspires us to reflect or to act?

Elements of the Project:

Web portal: An interactive website displaying a little over 300 found photographs will allow users to find clues which could connect the puzzle surrounding the mystery of the collection from Japan, found in Australia. Users can comment, compare photographs, tag, participate in forums, and contribute stories.

Workshops: Mayu Kanamori talks on found photography as a creative project, its history and its concerns in contemporary arts practices. Participants will then be introduced to the mystery of the collection of Japanese photographs found in Australia, and interact with the photographs (either by looking through them physically or online, then finding clues which connect the puzzle, such as seeing same people in different situations, clothing and scenery that tells the era).

Writers, Poets, Artists & Scholars: Invited to contribute a response through artworks and or writing an essay, short story or a poem about a specific photograph or a group of photographs from the collection as sample contributions for community participants.

Community: Groups of students (high schools or universities) and interested participants (such as historical or photographic societies or any individual interested) to contribute by creating connective groups within the collection (through tagging, collating and mind mapping). Some participants will be encouraged to contribute a response through artworks or writing an essay, short story or a poem about a specific photograph or a group of photographs from the collection. Workshops and sample contributions are given to start their process.

Social & Traditional Media: Through use of media through active social media campaigns and timely press releases, the project calls to find who or where to (re)patriate the original prints and or the copyright holder; or an appropriate place to archive them, if any. Contributors, workshop participant and website forum users are encouraged to participate.

Documentation & Exhibition: All of the above elements will be documented, translated (into Japanese) and exhibited online, and if possible, in community exhibition spaces both in Australia and Japan.

Facilitating Artist – Mayu Kanamori
I am a Japanese born artist and arts producer based in Sydney. My projects often focus on storytelling and community collaboration with themes involving the Japanese experience in Australia. I am a photographer by trade, but I also work in video, write plays, blogs and poetry, create audio-visual installations, and make performances. My recent works include: ‘You’ve Mistaken Me for a Butterfly,’ a performance about an early Japanese prostitute in the WA Goldfields; ‘Through a Distant Len’s, a play about the search for missing photographs by a prewar Japanese Australian photographer; and’ ‘In Repose’, site-specific performances and installations at Japanese Cemeteries in Townsville, Broome and Thursday Island.


Web Designer, Developer & Master – Chie Muraoka
I worked as a graphic designer at Hanshin Electric Railway Co and designer at IFIX in Sydney before starting my own web development and design business Tramindo, based in Sydney. In recent years I have been collaborating on not-for-profit and educational community based screen projects, incorporating design strategies with audio, visual, complex search and collate, and geo-locative functions to assist in community storytelling and international student exchanges. My recent projects with collaborator Mayu Kanamori included the Cowra Japanese Cemetery Online Database, Cowra Voices heritage smartphone app and Nikkei Australia Online.


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