Q&A: Miki Soejima — The Passenger’s Present ( Fw:Books)


Have you recently been living by any life philosophy?
 I never lived by one, but how I saw the world as a seven-year-old is always a guiding principle in my life. What will baffle future generations about our day and age? 
Why we didn’t do enough to stop destroying our environment. Are you aware of any conspiracies?
 Yes. What is it that interests you about photography? 
Its ability to both channel and unfold constructed narratives. What is the worst thing about city life? Packed train. 
What part of the planet would you like to explore? The atmosphere. What do you think is the most plausible of the supernatural?
 Will-o’-the-wisp. If you had to align yourself with a leader in history, who would it be?
 No one. Pick a field of science to be an expert within. 
Botany. What moment have you most wished you’d had a camera when you hadn’t? None. I don’t usually carry a camera and I am not in a mode for shooting when I don’t have a camera. 
Choose a job you would be willing to do for free on the side.
 Weaving. Describe the most important photo you’ve seen.
 It’s not one photo, but Luigi Ghirri’s work changed how I see photography completely. How often do you take other people’s advice? Rarely, but I take it when it is unexpected and if it inspires me to try something new. Describe a personal hell. A party I have to go. 
Which living person do you most admire? 
My little family. On what occasion do you lie?  When I want to hide myself. What was the last crime you witnessed? A childhood friend stealing erasers and stickers at a stationary shop. What is the best way to educate yourself?
 Try and error. What is the next book you want to read?
 A book about anthill. Ultimate camera? 
I don’t have one. Most used camera? 
iPhone. What object do you want?
 I don’t want an object but time. What object do you need? 
Book shelf. How would you explain the internet to someone from the 1950’s?
 Something that makes life very convenient, but that makes you waste a lot of time and emotions. Are you satisfied with your level of physical strength? 
No. I wish I could function better without much sleep. Describe a cheap thrill.
 Driving test for the second time. Pick an historic moment from the last hundred years to bring a camera to. I wish I saw the earth from space before it was photographed. Are impulses more important than consequences? 
Most of the time, yes. Which talent would you most like to have? Talent in music.
 What is your plan for the next 24 hours? Being with my toddler and newborn. It will rain and we will play in a puddle.

The Passenger’s Present proposes a multilayered view of Japanese contemporary society at a time in which the country faces great uncertainty. The work ponders how our imagination can initiate a process, which questions the narratives that surround us and the frameworks that sustain them.

It comprises photographs taken in and around Tokyo, Okinawa and other places since 2013, which are interspersed with constructed still-life images. A sequence of pictures – a kamikaze aircraft, a nuclear reactor, reappearing rainbows, American candy named after the atomic bomb – evokes a web of histories, myths and constructed narratives, which lie beneath the surface of the society.

The Passenger’s Present starts with an old photograph of people dancing during a memorial service for the war dead of the Japanese Imperial Army. Above them, the flags of Japan, of the Imperial Army and of the puppet state Manchukuo are visible. This photograph was selected from the author’s grandfather’s photo album, which he made between 1931 and 1945, while he was in Japanese-occupied Northeast China, Manchuria. He once said, “There is nothing to believe anymore”, as if to remind himself. Reviewing this historical period and its legacy, while reflecting on the meaning of these words became an important guide to look at the present and to develop the work.

Born in 1980 in Japan, Miki Soejima started working with photographs after completing her studies in Cultural Anthropology.

Her work addresses the persuasive power of photography and its ability to both channel and unfold constructed narratives, which underpin the world we live in. She uses these characteristics of the medium to reflect critically on the way we consume narratives and images, and how they influence our lives.

She is the author of the book Mrs. Merryman’s Collection, MACK, 2012. Her second book The Passenger’s Present was published by Fw: Books in 2018.