1 2 3 2 1

I met my friend Nami when I was living in Japan. She had a vision of documenting her pregnancy but wasn’t pregnant at the time. She wanted to be photographed by our mutual friend who although brought us together gave up on his life later on. Nami had expressed affection towards my work and I had felt a kinship for her in a strangely familiar way during our first encounters, so quite naturally we met again when she became pregnant and decided to document the process together.

At first, we would meet up to talk about the project and life in general. This happened regularly at her small apartment in Tokyo back then, well into the nights — I still smell the Tatami. We helped each other understand ourselves and we still do. We knew what each other wanted and have grown tremendously as individuals together. I believe that intimacy was a generous contributor to the photos. There was not much deliberation, we just wanted to free ourselves from Tokyo, the very symbolic metropolis and its suppressions.

Nami and I, along with our friend Austin who had always been there to help us with the shoot and later taking care of the baby, then started to travel every month to different locations inside Japan to document her journey. We especially went to Fuji a lot since it’s her hometown where she later moved back to. The whole process was spiritually marvelous. Nami had a very intuitive sense of navigation. That’s how we found most settings in nature. We once got lost and because of that we witnessed red Mount Fuji from close, as well as the birthing of a calf on Nami’s birthday, oddly enough her Chinese zodiac sign is Ox.

I perceived motherhood as something magnificently dynamic and profound. A phenomenon that brings forth another dimension of love and strength. A large number of photographs were captured during and after the time of Nami’s labor — moments that are very raw and touched me viscerally. As much as it was personal I believe there was also something very human and fundamental—the way that we bonded, organically without many labels attached, the inner strength she demonstrated, the feeling that life was always present and love was around. I constantly felt a certain undercurrent of mystery and awe, melancholy and joy during the process of making these images. Seeing the world through a brand new lens of another human being, one that is filled with curiosity and excitement, also put everything into perspective. It has nurtured me and continues to shape my perception of the future to come.

The idea of narrating stories of individuals that reflect on ourselves and our conditions has fascinated me. The backbone of the narrative is inspired by a mixture of 'Allegory of the Cave' and 'Iwato Biraki: The Story of Amaterasu', a commonly known Shinto myth in Japan. The story underlines compassion, justice, togetherness, and empowerment. The ongoing project and the sequence title are based on a coincidence that both the birthdays of Nami and her child contain just the number ‘1 2 3’ in the same order. In Taoist cosmology, creations begin with these three basic numbers, all things are generated from one same source, expanding, yielding, returning... This sequence is from the first series of the namesake book project.

1 2 3 2 1 by Yuan Yao Yuan

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