Posted on December 15, 2010



Kaeko Shabana is a photographer and fine artist based in Osaka, Japan.  Her shoots, a mixture between dream and reality, carry the spectator on a journey through visual poetry. She has a preference for analogue cameras as she believes in the specific, single frame imprinted in the film, and does not want her image to be disposable. Her subjects tend to be women and animals such as horses and owls.

Kaeko was born and raised in a small town outside Osaka. Her passion for photography arose when she was 11 and picked up her father’s point-and-shoot camera, but she hesitated to pursue a career as an artist as she came from a very conservative environment where art was regarded as having almost no value. Instead, she was pressed to stay in the family tradition of medicine, leaving the visual arts as a mere hobby.

Despite her family’s lack of understanding, she persevered and finally, in 2003, she managed to move to New York to obtain a Bachelor Degree in Fine Art at the Parsons New School for Design. In the Big Apple she has worked on several photographic projects and art books.  Her works were exhibited at the Back Room Biennial, at the Pool Art Fair, at Cornucopia and at the Veaux Gallery.

She has also been working for Life.com, the website team at the largest magazine published in the US, TIME/LIFE Inc. She was also featured as one of the six photographers at Fashionista.com in January 2010. After all that, she finally attained the support and understanding of her family, perhaps the greatest reward so far.

Her website contains some of her works as fashion photographer and her personal image collection.  She is currently applying herself to working “by hands”, creating paper art.  In her “by hands” section, she used a notebook as a canvas for a collage of images stuck together with various fabrics and words cut out from books.


Q: You have said that it took your family a long time to support your passion. Did this prove a major challenge?
A: Not really. They still hope that I would change my career to the medical field. Of course, it hurts sometime when my family shows no interest in what I do. It doesn’t really matter in the end how they think about what I am & who I am. I want to do what I want to do.

Q. What does art mean for you?
A: The language of the soul.

Q: The first time you used a camera was at the age of 11. What were your subjects when you first started out?
A: Shooting sky, landscape, cityscape and my dogs. Everyday life. It was more like a visual diary.

Q: Why did you decide to return to Japan after beginning to see success in New York?
A: I didn’t want to! I wanted to stay in New York. I had to leave because of visa and other personal issues. I’m definitely going back. If not to New York, somewhere else in the world.


Q: What equipment do you use for your photography, and why?
A: I use Hasselblad for my work. Also uses point-and shoot & polaroid cameras. I love Hasselblad because it enables me to produce timeless & honest images. The process is slow compared to the digitalized equipments, but it pushes me to think more about the subjects. Polaroids are magical! It is a pure fun. And for some reason, I get the most favourite shots from polaroids all the time. Point-and –shoot brings the intuitive side of me. Opposite to Hasselblad.


Q: One of your albums that really sticks in my head is “Petrified”, which shows portraits of owls together with lines from Baudelaire’s Le Fleurs du Mal – Is there a story behind this album?
A: I was photographing a lot of birds back then. Especially birds of prey that cannot return to nature for the rest of their lives. I wanted to do completely different project that I hadn’t done before. First, I was shooting them in a more documentary style. But I didn’t like what I did at all. As I spent more time shooting birds, I started seeing personalities in each bird. After making my contact sheets, I found the images very poetic. That was when Baudelaire’s ‘Owl” struck in my mind.


Q: There are strong repetitions in your compositions and cropping. Quite often your subjects are horses, owls, women in vintage dress, and literary quotations. What is the motivation behind these choices?
A: I tend to be attracted to something feminine and mystic. I love nostalgia & poems as well. I guess I interpret my subject symbolically and romantically at the same time. My work reflects feelings I have without an immediate intention.

Q: Aside from your images of women there is also a sense of the ‘everyday monument’ , and ‘personal shrines’ in your depictions of objects. Is this intentional? What significance do they hold?
A: It is and isn’t. Depends on what kind of mindset I’m in. They are very personal and sentimental. I like to photograph them sometimes the way they are.

Q: What are your professional ambitions and your projects for 2011?
A: My ambitions are to keep shooting and creating work. I hope my work will be recognized worldwide someday.
I have a couple projects that I’d like to start for 2011. I shall not tell anything about them yet.

Q. How do you hope Pelime can help with this?
A: Pelime offers me a place to connect to the creatives around the world. I get inspired by their work. I hope I can do the same to the other artists.


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