May 2012. I returned to Okinawa to photograph a local man who volunteered to pose for my Sight Seeing project. At night, in the pouring rain—it was rainy season in Okinawa—I took a northbound bus to Ginowan city, where he lived. In his quiet, dark room, I realized that I had never photographed a man in Okinawa, nor had I ever made a portrait in Okinawa. He said he lived with his wife, who happened to be out.
Most of the models I shot for Sight Seeing were straight men, which was unexpected for me because given the tone of my work I presumed most of them would be gay. As I photographed more straight men in nude, a strange sense of rebellion towards the heterosexual society grew inside me. I thought I was making the subjects’ sexuality ambiguous by undressing them and facing them with my queer lens in such an intimate manner. It was my way of challenging masculinity and hetero-normativity. Perhaps it was too subtle an action to call a rebellion; it was more like a childish attempt at revenge.
At least, that was what I thought. The truth was that, most of the times when I was taking a photograph, I couldn’t even look at them straight; I got shy even in the dark. “Should I take off my clothes?” the model asked. They just didn’t care about being naked. That nipped off the sprout of rebelliousness that had grown within me. I was hoping that by photographing straight men, I could blur the boundary of sexuality. But it was also quite possible that I would become complicit in strengthening the framework of male chauvinism and homosocial bonds. During the shoots, I constantly had such ambivalent feelings about photographing straight men, yet the temporal relationship I formed with each one of them was more casual and intimate than I thought. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of liberation in the experience.
Now, in Okinawa, I was photographing this straight man. He was naked except for his aloha shirt. While taking pictures, he told me about the gay events in Okinawa, which he seemed to attend quite often. “It’s fun, you go to one club after another, drink, head to the beach, and keep partying and drinking until the sun rises. The party feels like it goes on forever, it’s crazy . . . ” He obviously knew more about the gay society in Okinawa than I did. Then it occurred to me. I had never been to a gay bar in Okinawa.