Hiding feelings. A game with reality in which the ones who lose then win. Losing to the fear of shame, solitude and uncertainty, hoping to be liked, to be accepted, to fulfil expectations. And there, between the lines: silence. A soothing protection that sweeps all the dirt under the rug. Or behind a mask, a costume. It works. But some people may sense a flaw, a subtle paradox in the system. Some may want to lower the apparent control of their own rational self. What then?

In Japanese society, there is usually little space for spontaneous emotional display and for sharing feelings outside the most inner private circles. In my experience, adult Japanese people who venture beyond their safest comfort zone are a considerable minority. As a stranger living in Japan and walking its streets for the last three years, I have come to realize that these particular aspects—these fractions of the whole—are key elements for better understanding and appreciating this elusive society.

But these candid images are not meant to be a detached, rational and judgemental representation of an unfamiliar social context. Instead, they try to be an elusive, intimate, instinctive and open-minded visual perception of what I feel and experience while sharing my life with the people around me—people I respect and admire. And although these pictures were all taken in Japan, they are not the result of a story or idea I had in mind. My hope with them is to connect a specific context with a more universal one. I hope to allow the viewer to empathize with the doubts and desires deeply rooted in our very human nature.

—Matteo Daidone

Editor’s Note: We discovered Matteo Daidone’s evocative series If through this year’s LensCulture Street Photography Awards, where he was selected as a finalist. Check out the work of the other finalists, winners and juror’s picks here.