For students all over Japan, March is the month of graduation. With the ongoing pandemic, many students have been unable to have mass graduation ceremonies, which may add to some of the sadness of leaving friends behind, but there's always hope for the future and good friends to cherish memories with.

In a Tweet which has over 196,000 likes and 21,000 retweets at the time of writing, Shizuoka-based photographer うちだしんのすけ Shinnosuke Uchida captured some of that fleeting joy and hope of graduation season with a photo of two high school girls on the main road of a quiet country town having a playful moment beneath a pale azure sky and the backdrop of a snow-capped Mount Fuji towering majestically behind them. The text on the photo says: 夏色フォトグラフィー (Natsuiro Photography, along with the caption: 「春、卒業」("Spring, graduation")

"High school girls in Miho (Shizuoka Prefecture) have the most photogenic everyday lives in Japan"

Reproduced with permission from Shinsuke Uchida (@SinPictures)

Shinnosuke Uchida's passion for photography began in his late 20s when he took the DSLR camera he had bought to do wedding photography and began using it to capture memories of his then new-born child. Fast forward a few years, and Uchida now has his own photography studio, Studio Blue Cider, and handles a wide range of photography from individual shoots, wedding photography, advertising and TV commercial shoots.

However, since 2015, Uchida has been pursuing Natsuiro Photography (natsuiro meaning "the colors of summer") as a personal project, which focuses on the triple themes of the countryside, summer and high school girls. He has exhibited his works in his hometown of Shizuoka as well as Tokyo and Nagoya, and has published albums (now three volumes and counting).

We had a chance to interview Shinnosuke Uchida to understand why he chose this theme and understand his approach.


grape Japan (gJ): What made you decide to combine the three elements of countryside, summer, and high school girls?

Shinnosuke Uchida (SU): Because I love summer and the countryside. Summer is the longest and most liberating time of the year, and there are many exciting things to do such as summer festivals and summer vacation. I grew up in Shizuoka, a rural area surrounded by mountains and the sea, and the scenery in the countryside reminds me of the Showa era when I spent my youth. This is why I decided to take photos of the summer scenery of the countryside.

But scenery alone is boring. I wanted to convey a story that people could relate to, so I chose high school girls living in the area as my subject.

Summer is full of vitality but it flies by so quickly. Rural landscapes are gradually disappearing due to urban development. High school girls rush through their formative adolescent years.

As you can see, summer, the countryside, and high school girls are all ephemeral in their own ways. I thought that if I could take nostalgic and sentimental photos that combined these three elements, I could create works that many people could relate to. At the same time, I hope this will instill in viewers a desire to protect this precious landscape and revitalize the region.

gJ: Do you only take pictures of high school girls and not high school boys? If so, can you tell us why?

SU: I only shoot high school girls. My theory is that male photographers are better suited to take pictures of girls and female photographers are better suited to take pictures of boys. The reason is that I believe that there are certain expressions and gestures that can only be brought out by the opposite sex.

Moreover, high school girls' school uniforms are not only worn as fashion in Japan but have also become a kind of culture that young people overseas admire. I thought I could also attract attention from people around the world that way.

A mountain of authorization statements from parents agreeing to let their daughters be models:

gJ: When you take photos, do you give instructions to the high school girl models on how to pose, or do you just try to capture them in their natural state?

SU: I aim to take pictures that let you hear a conversation going on, so I tell the models that they can act as they always do and that they should have fun as if they were playing on the day of the shoot. I try not to tell the models what to do for posing, etc., and find out what they like to do from their natural movements. If there's a moment I like, I say: "I like what you just did!" I try not to tell them what to do.

gJ: What kind of feedback have you received from your models? If there's a memorable epsiode, please share it with us.

SU: Most of the models say: "I enjoyed the shoot very much! It was an invaluable experience! Please shoot with me again!"

However, I was particularly impressed by a girl who won the Grand Prix at a beauty pageant at the university she entered after graduating from high school. She used a photo from Natsuiro Photography when she applied for the contest. The girl said to me, "I wouldn't be where I am today if you hadn't taken my pictures. I am so grateful!" I was so happy that I nearly jumped for joy!

Shinnosuke Uchida will be exhibiting his works from April 1st at the Verkehr Shimizu Port Terminal Museum:

If you'd like to see more of Shinnosuke Uchida's photography, you can follow him on Twitter, view his Natsuiro Photography collection on his website, and purchase his albums at his online store here.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.