For four years, the Japanese photographer Kosuke Okahara followed the lives of six Japanese women who used self-harm as a mechanism for coping with life. This is the only way these women are able to find their ibasyo, the Japanese term for a physical and emotional place where one feels comfortable and at ease. Compassionately and from a respectful distance, Okahara illustrates the problems these girls struggle with. He hopes that his photographs will provide them with the opportunity to reflect on their own lives.
This frank photo documentary on self-harm originated with a friendship between Okahara and a student he met when he was at university. Once they had got to know each other better, she admitted to him that she was unable to feel ibasyo and for this reason had spent many years harming herself. The photographer was deeply moved by her story, not least because he himself had grown up in a family marred by alcohol abuse and domestic violence and could therefore identify with her situation.
The women in Okahara's photographs have experienced overwhelming emotions as a result of domestic violence, sexual abuse or intimidation. Loss of self-worth, panic attacks and depression result initially in impulsive acts of self-mutilation, after which it becomes difficult to stop. The body subsequently produces endorphins, as it does following intense physical activity, and these elicit a feeling of relief and euphoria; You can finally feel ibasyo. And so these women get caught in a vicious circle that is difficult to break. Okahara's images are at once probing, personal and confrontational. They show how young adults try to hold their own in a complex Japanese society in which imperfection is obliged to remain hidden and self-harm is very much a taboo subject.