Osamu James Nakagawa was born in New York City; raised in Tokyo, Japan and returned to Houston, Texas at the age of 15. He received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of St. Thomas Houston in 1986 and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Houston in 1993. Currently, Nakagawa is an associate professor of photography at Indiana University. Nakagawa received a 2009 Guggenheim Fellowship to support his project in Okinawa and 2010 Higashikawa Photo-festival A New Photographer of the Year in Japan.
Nakagawa's work is shown internationally. His work is in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House; Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography; Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts, Japan; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The Museum of Contemporary Photography Chicago and others.
James Nakagawa- Artwork Statement
Castles, from the series, Ma –between the past-
medium: Pigment Print
Castle, from the series, Ma –between the past- is a part of the photographic series I completed in 2003. The image is composed with both of my grandfathers' archives image of a topping-out ceremony in Japan and my father's 8 mm filmstrips from Disneyland in 1963. As a series the work conveys my sense of traverse between places I call "home." - Ma - crossing over the gaps that exist between here and there, now and then, triggering one to visualize their own past.
Ma views my family history through the cultural heritages of both Japan and the United States, two cultures that have been closely involved for the last one hundred and fifty years. This relationship has been deeply intertwined with the history of modernization before and after World War II, and through working with the archives I inherited, I saw this recent history unfold in the context of my own family.
A day before my father was hospitalized for his cancer in Tokyo, he brought me a suitcase filled with family mementos. Looking back, I think it was important for him to hand down the visual history of our family to the next generation. Two months later, my daughter was born, then my father passed away…
The suitcase sat untouched in my studio for years. Finally I had the courage to open my father's memory box and looked at the old photographs and films he had kept. The entire contents of his suitcase contained family mementos. Some of the images were familiar to me, however many other images were ones that I had never seen. I began to question my own past, not only my memory, but also the unfamiliar past that I had inherited. How can I make connections between the images that I had photographed and the images in my father's memory box? Ma-between the past came out of this question. This series searches for a link to my past and its future passage to my daughter.