Edition 2024



1 July - 29 September 2024

10.00 AM - 06.15 PM

Last entrance 5pm


For more than three thousand years, ama, the Japanese "women of the sea", have populated the shores of the archipelago, freediving for seaweed and abalone. Their special place the Japanese imagination, their sensual connection to the water, their fearlessness and sovereignty have fascinated poets and artists for centuries. Japanese photographer Uraguchi Kusukazu, a native of Shima (Mie prefecture) on the Pacific coast, has devoted over thirty years to documenting the lives of the ama in his region, in their most diverse aspects: deep- sea dives, harvests near the shore, portraits, collective scenes on the beach and in the amagoya—an exclusively female resting place—and the daily relationship with Shintoism, culminating in summer at the time of the matsuri (summer festivals). His photographs illuminate the age-old practices of the ama, capturing their energy at every moment. Nurtured by their vitality and the trust they have bestowed on him, he has developed a visual language marked by intensity and expressivity: contrasting blacks and whites, de-framings, gestures captured in their genuine spontaneity anchor the ama in their era—mainly the 1970s and 1980s —while paying homage to their powerful, assertive femininity.

Replete with tens of thousands of photographs devoted to the subject, the Uraguchi archive has remained unexplored since his death. This is the starting point for a hitherto unseen exhibition, which takes us on a journey to meet extraordinary women whose harmonious interaction with their environment provides a source of inspiration today. This rediscovery also enables us to approach Japanese photography through
one of the essential aspects of its history, that of amateur practice, of which Uraguchi, through his involvement in various photo- club networks, was an extraordinary representative.

Sonia Voss

Curator: Sonia Voss.

With support from Fondation Franco-Japonaise Sasakawa.

Publication: Shima no Ama, Kusukazu Uraguchi, Atelier EXB, 2024

  • Institutional partners

    • République Française
    • Région Provence Alpes Côté d'Azur
    • Département des Bouches du Rhône
    • Arles
    • Le Centre des monuments nationaux est heureux de soutenir les Rencontres de la Photographie d’Arles en accueillant des expositions dans l’abbaye de Montmajour
  • Main partners

    • Fondation LUMA
    • BMW
    • SNCF
    • Kering
  • Media partners

    • Arte
    • Lci
    • Konbini
    • Le Point
    • Madame Figaro
    • France Culture