Soul South 2009

In early 2004 I moved from Tokyo to Georgia.

In 1977, on my first excursion outside the Japanese islands, I felt deep, inexplicable nostalgia in the Deep South. While resting under a big oak, chatting with people in black neighborhoods, in almost any situation, I would catch myself in amazement: this is really my first time here.

And in 2008, a most gratifying thing occurred for this country. Hearing serious black voices on the radio, savoring Obama’s victory, my tears welled up. An African-American had become president.

Of course social and economic conditions for many African-Americans are not so different today as they were 30 years ago. Many men and women still perform menial jobs for middle class suburban whites. The U.S. has built far more jails than schools or factories, and for poor African-Americans the very real specter of the former often eclipses dreams and prosperity of the latter.

Taking photos and interacting with African Americans in 1977, I felt I shared a physical energy, enjoyed the warmth and glow of faces I saw along the streets, more so than now. I feel I sensed more hope, more possibility than now.

A photo document can tell what kind of world we once lived in. Looking at these photos after another ten years, I am sure one would see an even larger story, a broader truth. I hope and believe these “Soul South” images will carry such precious significance forward for people in the future.