Project ‘refreshing, new’ for NY photographer

By LEA RIZZO, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 11/8/17

DORA — A Dora native and a photographer from New York City are hoping to turn Dora residents into the main feature in a new art project.

Tanya Rouse and …

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Project ‘refreshing, new’ for NY photographer


DORA — A Dora native and a photographer from New York City are hoping to turn Dora residents into the main feature in a new art project.

Tanya Rouse and Fumi Nagasaka are visiting Dora this weekend and will continue to do so over the coming months to take photos of people and landscapes that will be featured in Nagasaka’s project. These pictures will likely be made into a photobook.

Rouse moved to New York City in the ‘90s and now lives in Brooklyn, down the street from photographer Nagasaka.

The two met when Nagasaka, who does street casting — finding an interesting person on the street to photograph — met Rouse’s oldest daughter Sophie and photographed her.

Nagasaka works in the fashion industry and pursues her own photography projects as well. Rouse used the idea of a new photography project to convince Nagasaka to come to Alabama with her, telling her that there are a lot of interesting people in the area who might be interested in being photographed.

Over the summer, Rouse, Nagasaka and Rouse’s daughters Annabelle and Sophie visited Rouse’s family in Dora and this was when Nagasaka was first able to take photos of local people.

That visit was the first time that Nagasaka, who is from Japan and has been living in New York since 2002, had been to the South and was a bit of a culture shock for her.

She said that she visits her younger brother in Germany at least once a year but Alabama and Dora felt further away from New York than going to Europe or Japan.

“I’ve been in New York a long time and I travel to Europe all the time for work, but I’ve never really been to middle America,” Nagasaka said. “So for me it was a really great experience to come here and meet people. In a way, it really inspired me and we kind of came up with this idea of doing a project on Dora.”

Nagasaka published her debut photobook, Untitled Youth, last year and it features portraits of teenagers from Los Angeles, Berlin, Norway, New York and Manchester. She is hoping to turn this project into a similar photobook.

To be more immersed in things that are going on in the community and to look for opportunities to take pictures, Rouse and Nagasaka attended the Dora High School bonfire and homecoming parade recently.

“I want to shoot football players and cheerleaders and all the American things I didn’t really grow up with,” Nagasaka explained. “For me, it’s really refreshing and new.”

She added that she enjoys photographing teenagers as a way to capture that moment, in the process of growing up, between being a child and an adult.

While they’re focusing on Dora during this visit, they may end up expanding it to cover the rest of Walker County.

Nagasaka said one of the major differences between photographing kids in Walker County and in New York is that parents are much more wary of how the photos will be used here.

“I normally talk to parents if the kids are under 18. New York parents are really familiar with fashion and photography and I had never had any problems about getting permission from them,” she said. “I realized when I photographed some kids here, they had a really hard time understanding that it’s a personal art project and that the pictures aren’t going to be sold to somebody else.”

According to Rouse, a lot of the kids are more open to it but their parents feel apprehensive about signing release forms; but they’re hoping the more they visit and continue to meet members of the community, the more people will open up.

“We’re really just hoping that we can draw some attention to this part of the world and this community and show how special it is,” she added.

Rouse and Nagasaka arrived in Dora on a Thursday and stayed through a Monday. Over the next two years, they will be returning to take more photos for Nagasaka’s project, which she hopes to have completed and released in 2020.