Masaki Yamamoto’s latest photography book Guts redefines what we think of as a family portrait. Set in his family’s tiny Japanese apartment, Masaki captures the ups, downs and the mundane everyday of the household’s domestic life. The result is an affectionate visual ode to his cluttered childhood home that is jam-packed with anything from trinkets to mattresses. “I came to realise that I didn’t want to take pictures that anyone could capture. If I were to document something then I wanted it to be my family. Only I could do that properly and earnestly,” Masaki tells It’s Nice That.
Images of war were surprisingly Masaki’s main motivation to pursue photography as a career. After receiving a rejection from the Japanese Self-Defence Forces due to imperfect eyesight, Masaki reassessed his uncertain future. “I saw this magazine in a bookshop that featured war photographers. I was very moved by the images and decided that I want to be able to influence people with my photography as well.” Masaki consequently enrolled in photography school, where he studied for the next two years. Now based in Kobe, the artist snaps moving images that tell intriguing stories of the intimate family dynamics that play out day after day within the four walls of his modest apartment.
Masaki’s compelling honesty is a refreshing break from the Instagram personalities that obsessively showcase their best selves and perfect lives. The Japanese photographer simply shows it like it is. “I am trying to document the interesting, astonishing and intimate family moments in a positive way. There are, of course, negative instances too. But I find that the daily hardships are inspiring because they are what connect and strengthen our relationships with one another. They are a part of my work’s backdrop,” Masaki says. Daring and highly unconventional, Guts is a visual diary that traces a family’s changing circumstances and chronicles the emotional developments that inevitably occur over time.
At the heart of Masaki’s work is not only the photographer’s unconditional love for his family but also a great appreciation of this family’s uniqueness. Initially, Masaki tried to stage photographs that would document his family in symbolic or significant locations. But this didn’t quite work he says. “I was calculating my shots, without thinking about what I wanted to achieve from them or what was most attractive to me. One day, I met up with a friend. I told him how my family had been separated in the past because of my father’s gambling problems. I also told him that my sister was living a very withdrawn life. My friend laughed at how extraordinary my family was. It made me realise that I should document my family exactly how they are.”