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Nagano, Japan, Feb. 9, 2014. (Motoko Sato)

Hokkaido, Japan, Dec. 11, 2016. (Motoko Sato)

Motoko Sato became fascinated with nature from a young age, encouraged by her father, who was a botanical artist. A trained painter, she picked up a camera after her parents died, and she felt compelled to live in the moment.

Her background in Japanese painting, which does not employ gradation, led to her stark black and white photographic style.

“By drawing in black, the white of the paper becomes the equal existence to black from none to white. Opposite things, like white and black, or life and death, build each other's existence. That is why I wanted to aim equally at both the visible and the invisible.”

Sato’s work can only partially be digested digitally. She prints her black and white photographs on traditional handmade Japanese paper, wanting her viewers to experience texture, which she believes comes from elements of her culture.

“We Japanese take off shoes in the house and sit on the floor or tatami. When I was a child, I lived in a house made of wood, soil and paper. We hold tableware when we eat. There are various materials and shapes in Japanese-style tableware, and we feel the texture of them to our hands and lips.”


Nagano, Japan, Feb. 9, 2014. (Motoko Sato)

Nagano, Japan, Feb. 12, 2019. (Motoko Sato)

Hokkaido, Japan, Dec. 14, 2018. (Motoko Sato)

Nagano, Japan, Feb. 11, 2013. (Motoko Sato)

Gunma, Japan, April 26, 2015. (Motoko Sato)

Nagano, Japan, Sept. 22, 2013. (Motoko Sato)

Hokkaido, Japan, Jan. 6, 2017. (Motoko Sato)

In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.

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