Contemporary Portraits of an Annual Samurai Fashion Festival

Everett Kennedy Brown likes to pose the question: “when do you suppose this photograph was taken?” The answer, of course, is not what you expect. The photographer and long-time resident of Japan takes anachronistic photographic portraits that document what is perhaps one of the oldest fashion shows in the world.

Indeed, Brown’s contemporary photographs, part of a collection called “Japanese Samurai Fashion” were taken last year. They capture the people of Soma, Fukushima, who carry on the 800-year tradition of the annual Nomaoi (“Wild Horse Chase”) ceremony in which residents dress up in traditional samurai costume.

“One of the things that distresses me about living in Japan,” says Brown in a TED Talk he gave, “is the historical amnesia that I find in a large number of Japanese people. So many important memories – many beautiful, others horrifying – are being forgotten.”

When Brown traveled up to Fukushima prefecture after the March 11 disaster to connect with people who live there he met Michitane Soma, the 34th generation head of the Soma warrior clan. It was then that Brown discovered the wonderful tradition these samurai descendants were keeping alive.

Michitane Soma, the head of an 800-year-old samurai clan in Soma, Fukushima

Brown was given access to photograph 44 Soma residents wearing traditional samurai costume. Using wet plate collodion photography and advanced digital techniques Brown captures the rich cultural tapestry of samurai fashion with a deep insight into each of the individuals.

“It was more important to center themselves in their 800-year-old samurai tradition,” writes Brown, “than to succumb to the changing winds of time.”

Brown’s photographs were recently on display at hpgrp gallery in New York, as well as the Art on Paper fair.

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