Chris Barnes is an Australian photographer currently living in the Niseko area of Hokkaido. Although new to the field of photojournalism (he left his “day” job and hit the road in 2011), he has documented, among other things, the devastation and recovery of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Over the past two years, Barnes has collected an impressive library of work and developed a clear vision built on human connections. In this interview, Barnes talks about how it began and his experience in Japan.
What were you doing before you packed your life into that backpack and set off on your current journey?
Can you describe how and when you ended up in Japan and Hokkaido?
In 2011, a friend of mine suggested we come to Hokkaido to work the winter and then travel around Japan and see where it took us. To be honest, Japan was not high on my list of places to visit when I decided I wanted to explore the world. I knew nothing about its people, its culture or its beauty. This soon became the perfect reason to visit Japan. I fell in love within days and I knew I would enjoy spending a decent amount of time traveling the country, experiencing its unique culture and getting to know its people.I describe Hokkaido to my friends and family as one big national park. The coastline, the mountains, the rivers and the people of Hokkaido give it such a calming feeling compared to many other parts of Japan.
One of the shots from Barnes’ visit to Tohoku one year after the disaster.
What has been the most challenging subject for you to document?
What was it like shooting in Miyagi and Iwate one year after the disaster?
What kind of work do you do when you’re not shooting in conflict zones or disaster areas? For example, what do you shoot on a daily basis in Hirafu or around Hokkaido?
I try to keep things simple. Gone are the days I would be “snap happy” with the camera, shooting whatever I could. I now look for something different in a place, something that tells more of a story. Sometimes this could be simple human interactions in the streets, or a magical pattern formed by a snowflake on the windscreen of my car. Each place has its own uniqueness, I challenge myself to find it.
Where do you see your photography career taking you next?
I see it taking me further around the world. Ideally I would like an internship with a magazine or newspaper, one which would allow me to travel and document conflict and disaster. Until then, I’ll be packing my bags and searching for it myself.
You can see more work by Chris Barnes on his website.