I love a silent room. A sofa emitting some warmth, a door left open — people were here minutes before, but now only their shadows remain. When I look at these lonely objects from behind a camera lens, for some reason I feel calm. As if the inanimate sofa and door are telling me that there is nothing wrong with being alone.
During elementary and middle school, I was often absent due to my skin condition. A rash would break out on my face, and classmates would bully me with hurtful names like “pimple face.” Even on days I could go to school, they would tease me by saying things like “the dropout’s here today.” I was afraid to be left out. I would butter up the popular kids in my class just to be allowed into their group. I felt pathetic, and hated myself for it.
My father helped me get out of this situation. “Being alone is not a bad thing. Use your time by yourself to read many books and develop your character. Learn to love loneliness.” His words helped me consider being alone as something positive. For somebody who was always caught up in what others thought, this was the first time I learned to treat myself with care.
After that day, I read mountains of books. Ryotaro Shiba’s “Clouds Above the Hill: A historical novel of the Russo-Japanese War” taught me to live with purpose. I learned the richness of living true to myself through “The Witch of the West is Dead” by Kaho Nashiki.
Digesting the words in these books was a lonely process, but nevertheless I began to love spending time by myself. The idea that I was developing my character gave me confidence.
Now, I usually go out to take photos instead of reading when I’m alone. The photos I take wouldn’t receive many “likes” on social media. However, I believe that there is a world out there that only I can find. I focus my lens on the unnoticed, the quiet. I’m alone, but never lonely.
Kotaro Chigira, intern
(Originally published in Japanese on Sept. 8, 2020. Translation by Ayaka Ono.)Through Our Eyes: All articles