By Austin Hill
During the spring of 2018, senior Kayla Amador spent her semester in Japan studying the language, aesthetic beauty, and culture of the country and what it had to offer – and never without her camera. Every day, Kayla made sure that she carried her camera with her so that she could photograph the landscapes, the people and the culture that she was immersed in; even more specifically, she was able to capture part of the beautiful essence of the Japanese writing system. The writing system, a combination of three different scripts, was both a challenge and unique opportunity for Kayla to understand and interact with on a daily basis. From this diligent and artistic approach to immersion and observation, Kayla was able to curate an art exhibition of her photographs. As it is written in her statement with the START Gallery – where her exhibition was held – the focus of her show was to depict her interactions with the Japanese culture (more specifically, the written language and how it manifested itself in everyday life) in a way that people could understand through a camera lens. We were able to speak with Kayla further about some more specific topics about her show and how it related to her time abroad, as follows:
What was it like curating your first exhibition?
Kayla: Creating and curating my first exhibition was an enjoyable experience! Once I had an idea of the concept I was going for, the rest came together naturally. Perhaps the most difficult aspects of the process were the beginning and the end: first deciding on a theme for the exhibition, and later deciding how to arrange the finished photos on the wall. As for the steps in-between, the process was remarkably smooth.
How did you decide which photographs that you wanted to include?
Kayla: I initially narrowed down which photos I felt best fit my exhibition proposal – those in which the text presented functioned both practically and spatially. From there, I worked with Paul Bright and Jay Buchanan to further narrow down my selections and ensure that the photos in the exhibition fit well together, without being redundant.
What were some things that you learned during your time in Japan that you wanted to convey through this exhibition?
Kayla: Something that I learned during my time in Japan that I want to convey through this exhibition is the importance of text in space as serving both a practical and aesthetic purpose. This, of course, is something that can be seen globally, but when considering a logographic language like Japanese, I feel the aesthetic potential of the text is quite strong. Language functions as communication, but this communication relies on the text being noticeable and understood. I enjoyed photographing text that that asserted its function, text I knew how to read, as well as text I did not, and text that I felt created dialogue visually, within the space it existed.
Was there anything in Japan that surprised you that you caught on camera?
Kayla: I was perhaps most surprised by just how many different ways text is used, and how it can be visually represented. Many of the photos that made it into the show were taken before I considered specifically shooting examples of text, and I feel that speaks to the concept that we are we constantly faced with visual representations of language, and are constantly reading the world around us. The idea of reading being a process may not be so noticeable until that process of reading is in another language, and thus takes more effort.
When it came to photography while abroad, what kept you inspired?
Kayla: To stay inspired, I was determined to consider spaces different from the typical photo seen in brochures and online. As I traveled with my camera every day, I made it my mission to take photos of what is left out from the frame of a touristy photo. I would take photos before reaching or while leaving a popular location or photograph with my back to a landmark so that I could capture the other side of the “tourist image” and consider different angles that I had not seen before.