Back when I was young, I had no doubt that some things would last forever. But one day, my grandmother told me, “Anything with a shape will eventually be gone.” This saying has remained in my mind since then.

“Shogyo Mujyo” is a Buddhist term that combines two phrases: “shogyo” encompasses every bit of every phenomenon in this world; “mujyo” means nothing lasts as it is—everything constantly changes.

Hanafuda Shouzoku #11 © Shinya Masuda, Winner, LensCulture Emerging Talent Awards 2017

Memory has no physical form. People rely on material things when they try to recall their memories. But anything with a shape will eventually be gone. As a result, memories must live on forever in our minds.

The idea of this body of work came to me when I found rotten food inside a box that my mother had sent me from my hometown. I felt so sorry when I thought of my mother’s affection towards me. The process of food rotting and losing its form is taken for granted, while thinking about our own impermanence is much more challenging. I also wanted to find a way to express my mother’s love in a physical form.

Hanafuda Shouzoku #36 © Shinya Masuda, Winner, LensCulture Emerging Talent Awards 2017

I portrayed the rotten food like a dead or dying soul, and dressed them up in “shouzoku,” or “costumes,” that would give them a fitting appearance for their journey into the next world. When I set up the arrangement for each photograph, I chose to mirror the designs from a Japanese card game called Hanafuda. I chose Hanafuda because I often played it with my grandmother, the same one who taught me the concept of “Shogyo Mujyo” in the first place. This project is a tribute to her.

—Shinya Masuda

Editors’ note: Shinya Masuda’s work has received multiple recognitions from LensCulture in the past year—this series, Hanafuda Shouzoku, was singled out in our Emerging Talent Awards (you can see all of the 50 laureates on in the winners gallery). One of Masuda’s images was also exhibited at Klompching Gallery in New York as part of our Winter Exhibition in December 2017.