A little less than ten years ago a young photographer from Lyon, Chloé Jaféin Tokyo she succeeded in an almost impossible feat: she, a woman, Western and moreover with a camera around her neck, was approached by one of the bosses of the yakuzathe legendary Japanese mafia. That beer together – as he tells today, after many years – was the keystone to realize the first chapter of an intense photographic project (already awarded the Talent Award in 2017) that we are now so lucky, we in Italy, to be able to see in the Cloisters of San Pietro, in Reggio Emilia why I give you my life is one of the (many, all notable) exhibitions selected by Tim Clark And Walter Guadagninifor European Photography (the festival, in various spaces of the Emilian city, is running until 12 July with the suggestive title An invincible summer).
Here we bring you some of the most evocative shots taken from Inochi Azukemasu (I give you my life), the story that Chloé Jafé managed to immortalize during her seven-year stay in Tokyo with the – for many absurd – goal of staring with her camera the existence of the most invisible creatures of Japanese society: women, wives, daughters, sisters, companions of yakuza.
Getting to enter such a closed and dangerous universe was not easy: the photographer, she says, took at least two years to settle in Tokyo, to understand the language and culture of the place. Not even long evenings at Red Light District of the capital were bringing the desired results: apart from the suggestions of reading some good books and manga stories, it seems that no one wanted to put her in contact with the women of the mafia organization.
The world yakuza it is masculine, or rather masculine in the cube: only men can be true members of the “club”, only they can decide. Still, the French photographer was sure there was more to discover. The shots you see now are the result of a long and skilful workor in which, with discretion but having had the trust of one of the bosses, she has been able to enter this strange world of unwritten laws where mafia women live in the shadow of normal lives, sacrificing their existence to cover and support their comrades.
Nobody felt judged and this is the reason for the extraordinary nature of this photographic reportage where, between patches of color and skilful black and white, solitary figures emerge, almost ancestral creatures who have decided to engrave on the skin, thanks to tattoos, their rule of life, their mafia code. In Japan i tattoo they still remain a social taboo: among women they are yakuza instead an armora defense.
«The meeting I will never forget? All the women you see pictured here have meant a lot: I am still in contact with some of them. There is Yumi, for example, the bodyguard of the boss’s wife, who is a woman of great strength and determination. At the beginning of the project, almost all of them were afraid to show their faces, then they trusted: they understood that my curiosity towards them was sincere, that my gaze was devoid of moral judgment. My interest is purely photographic: I wanted to portray women used to living in the shadows, often deprived of the freedom to decide who to marry or from whom to divorce. We had many discussions with them on the very concept of freedom: they are not used to dealing with European people and it was essential that I speak their language “, the photographer told us on the phone.
In her shots she was able to portray the pride and sense of belonging of a group of women of different ages and roles: “Someone accused me of wanting to make the Japanese mafia “glamorous”: that’s not the case. I know perfectly well the methods they use and the illegal actions they carry out: mine is not a journalistic report. I wanted to lift the veil on a little known part of Japanese female society, ”she concludes. No judgment, no prejudice: let’s let the photos speak for themselves.
Source: Vanity Fair