Ayaka Endo navigates the “blurred” boundary between nature and humans

Describing the editing process like “painting a picture”, the Tokyo-based photographer details the making of the series Kamuy Mosir.

15 October 2022

Ayaka Endo shot Kamuy Mosir across multiple locations. Zoos and farms, “where animals and plants are nurtured by human hands”, for example, feature within the series. But mostly, Ayaka photographed Mount Meakandake, an active stratovolcano located in Hokkaido, Japan. The title itself, Kamuy Mosir, comes from the Ainu community, the indigenous people of Hokkaido. Kamuy refers to a spiritual, or divine being. Through Kamuy Mosir, the photographer therefore hopes to “express the ‘Kami’ dwelling in nature”, while simultaneously critiquing mankind’s involvement in it.

As a process of documentation, Kamuy Mosir emerged from the stretches of lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly the depression Ayaka experienced during that period. The photographer explains: “At that time, it was nature that I sought and that saved me. I strongly felt that nature was the only hope we had left.” Though nature, for many, was a source of wellbeing for many during lockdown, the relationship between Covid-19, mankind and natural environments also has other connotations which Ayaka questions through the series – namely Covid-19’s nature as a zoonotic disease. The photographer continues: “When I learnt that zoonotic diseases like Coronavirus are also caused by humans going out to every corner of the earth and altering nature, I began to question human society in its pursuit of capitalism.”

Ayaka’s practice is based on the idea of Animism. The photographer explains the belief as one in which “humans are not necessarily the only masters of the beings on earth and in the universe”, adding “that the Holy Spirit dwells all things in nature”. These photographs explore the distance between humans and nature, unpacking its liminal, “blurred” boundaries, but they also question if such a boundary can even exist. As the photographer points out: “Even untouched nature is chosen to be preserved by mankind."


Ayaka Endo: Kamuy Mosir (Copyright © Ayaka Endo, 2021)

Looking through the images, you may notice an air of the unnatural. This, in the words of Ayaka, is a take on the “artificiality of man’s response to nature”, a back and forth that can be felt in the tones, colours and even compositions Ayaka turns to. Some of this effect can be attributed to Ayaka’s use of flash: “It has the effect of portraying the contours and existence of animals, landscapes, stones, trees and everything else in an equivalent way. And the light will show you more than what you actually see in reality. I then use Photoshop to bring out the voice of the subject, to make the colours and contours stand out.” Ayaka likens building the image from the ground up in this way to “painting a picture”.

As well as working towards a Kamuy Mosir book, Ayaka is looking ahead to new projects, this time considering the sea as a subject. “I like diving, so when I get a bit more experience I’d like to get some equipment and do some serious photography in the sea.”

GalleryAyaka Endo: Kamuy Mosir (Copyright © Ayaka Endo, 2021)

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Ayaka Endo: Kamuy Mosir (Copyright © Ayaka Endo, 2021)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. In January 2023, they became associate editor, predominantly working on partnership projects and contributing long-form pieces to It’s Nice That. Contact them about potential partnerships or story leads.

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