My family’s immigration from Okinawa to Hawaii has been shrouded by the passing down of stories. I heard that my great-grandparents lived on Momohara Island (hence, my name). It was said that you could only get there by foot at low tide. I imagined no one else lived on the island but our family. And such a small, remote island would surely be abandoned by now…

The “Islands” body of work is inspired by a trip I took to Okinawa to investigate my family’s life there before immigrating to Kauai, Hawaii in the late 19th century. During my visit, however, the old stories proved false. In actuality, there was no Momohara Island. In fact, my real family name is not even Momohara. This new knowledge has added to the legacy of my great-grandparents. However, the “myths” did not die in my mind. I could not abandon their charm or my absorption of them.

I began to think about islands as metaphors for issues of legacy and memory. Islands are often associated with isolation, seclusion, exoticism and paradise. Throughout history, islands are symbols for the inner person:

Every man is an island –Carl Jung
No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent – John Donne

Many staples in our culture use islands to symbolize emotional states: in Homer’s Odyssey, a difficult journey takes place over a series of islands. In Mutiny on the Bounty, sailors rebel against their captain for a life in Tahitian paradise. Recent movies like Cast Away and television shows such as Lost examine taxing elements of isolation and aspects of taming the tropics.

“Islands” is composed of landscape-inspired studio creations. The studio creations are imaginary islands and places made of symbolic materials or compositions. These spaces discuss dreams of belonging, the unknown, memory and place.

—Emily Hanako Momohara

Editors’ Note: We discovered this great work when Emily Hanako Momohara submitted some of these photos to the LensCulture Emerging Talent Awards. Even though the international jury did not select the submission as an award winner, the editors of LensCulture liked the work so much, that we decided to publish a feature article about it and post it to Facebook, as well. Enjoy!

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