Akihiko Okamura: Memories of Others

Photo Museum Ireland is thrilled to debut the exhibition, photobook, and film titled “Memories of Others” showcasing the Irish endeavors of Japanese photographer Akihiko Okamura in April 2024.
During the late 1960s to early 1980s, esteemed Japanese war photojournalist Akihiko Okamura (1929-1985) crafted a profound and largely unseen collection of work in Ireland, spanning both its northern and southern regions. This exhibition marks the inauguration of a comprehensive program, including a documentary film and the inaugural publication on Okamura’s Irish ventures. Following his coverage of the Vietnam War, Okamura journeyed to Ireland in 1968 to explore the homeland of JFK. Subsequently, in 1969, he relocated there with his family. From then on, he diligently documented the Troubles in the North alongside his family life in the South until his sudden demise in 1985. His previously obscure photographs of Ireland exhibit a distinctive artistic perspective. This distinctiveness partly stems from Okamura’s decision to reside in Ireland; among the international photographers of that era, he uniquely dedicated himself to Irish and Northern Irish history. This immersion in his subject matter enabled him to produce imagery that was both innovative within his own practice and in the photographic portrayal of the Troubles. His deep personal connection with Ireland facilitated the development of a novel approach to documenting conflict: capturing poetic and ethereal moments of peace amidst wartime turmoil.
In contrast to prevalent representations of Northern Ireland during that period, Okamura’s photographs predominantly feature color. Taken in both the North and the South of Ireland, his works departed from the traditional photojournalistic style, presenting a series of still lifes and abstractions. Their soft, subdued tones contrast sharply with the violence of the era, diverging from the conventional, black-and-white, “heroic” depictions that typify the period. Okamura’s oeuvre reveals a more subjective viewpoint, often transcending typical photographic depictions of unrest to capture quieter, intimate, quasi-surreal moments that reflect his empathetic concern for the communities he documented. This instinctive narrative approach was deeply intertwined with his profound attachment to Ireland and its people. While Okamura remains esteemed in Japan, his Irish endeavors, pivotal to both his body of work and personal life, had hitherto remained unstudied. The rediscovery of this archive constitutes a revelation in the realms of Japanese photography and Irish history alike.
Accompanying the exhibition is a new publication by esteemed publishers Atelier EXB (co-published in English by Prestel) and a new documentary film unveiling Akihiko Okamura’s remarkable Irish work and the emotional and artistic resonance of its recent rediscovery. Directed by Pauline Vermare and Marc Lesser. Produced by Lucky Tiger Productions.

About the Author

Akihiko Okamura, born in Tokyo in 1929, initially pursued medical studies but transitioned to photography while working with the editorial team at New Weekly in 1961. Following an assignment in Bangkok, he turned to photography, subsequently gaining recognition as a significant war photographer during the Vietnam War in the 1960s. His work, including poignant images of prisoners of war, garnered widespread acclaim and appeared in publications such as Life magazine. Driven by his own childhood experiences of wartime terror in Tokyo, Okamura sought to chronicle conflicts and human rights violations worldwide, leading him to document numerous conflicts from Ethiopia to Biafra and Northern Ireland. Okamura settled in Ireland with his family in 1969, residing there until his passing in 1985.


Akihiko Okamura: Memories of Others
11th April – 6th July 2024
Photo Museum Ireland – Dublin

A portrait of Akihiko Okamura

Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Prestel (September 10, 2024)
Language: English
Weight: 1.25 pounds
ISBN-10: 3791393243
ISBN-13: 978-3791393247

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