Hiki Komori: Out of the Bell Jar
Natasha Desai attempts to discover the mystery behind the elusive photographer on Instagram, simply known as Hiki Komori.
Those who frequent Instagram will know what it is like to come across an account that overflows with uniqueness. The Instagram handle that I stumbled upon, @hiki_komori_, was like stepping into an enchanted world filled with double exposures. Using similar textures and colour tones, the images spoke of loneliness and isolation that struck a chord with me.
I kept saying the name Hiki Komori over and over again in my head, unable to remember where or when I had come across those words. An online search revealed its origin. Hikikomori refers to a group of people in Japan, also known as ‘missing millions’. These individuals live in extreme isolation, unable and unwilling to interact with society.
Articles about the artist revealed nothing more. Intrigued by both the imagery and the person, I got in touch with the artist, knowing neither if it would be a woman, man, teenager nor from which part of the world they would respond from.
“Sometimes you have so much pain in you, that you cannot share joy with anybody. You have to withdraw and be reborn. My rebirth occured through my photographs, and the collaborations with the people I met.”
Deep in Winter
With a time and date fixed, I found myself speaking to a quiet 35-year-old French gentleman, who would prefer to be known just as Hiki Komori.
With the sweet joy of happiness, life also brings along eddies of misfortune. Around two years ago, the loss of his full time job, coupled with a broken heart, drove Hiki Komori to leave Marsellies and move to the smaller, quieter town of Clairemont Ferrand in France.
“When I came to know of the hikikomori in Japan, I was able to relate to the subculture completely. I was in a dark and low point in my life, with nothing good happening to me.” A designer by profession, Hiki Komori photographed extensively over the years. And it was to this art he turned to, in an effort to reinvent himself.
He experimented with several ways of presenting his double exposures until he decided upon the final look and feel. “Since I used elements like trees and buildings to make images, I wanted something related to me to tie them together. Hence, I used consistency in colour and texture.” All the people featured in his photos are either his friends in real life or people he met over Instagram.
Each image is made on his iPhone, edited using different apps like Mextures, TinType, mExpose, Camera+ and Photoforge 2. “I usually experiment alone in my room, with good music and a glass of good whiskey by my side.” The portraits are either sent to him by his collaborators or made by himself. Most of the time, his family forms his most willing subjects. “My children don’t exactly understand what I do with the pictures, but they love the final results.”
The Persistence of Isolation
When asked if the feel of isolation is intentional in his images, he replies, “it is definitely deliberate. A couple once got in touch with me, wanting a double exposure of them together. I had to refuse. The point of the pictures I make is to depict the loneliness that each and every one of us experiences at some point in our life, in varying degrees.”
The Arrival of Spring
Over time, Hiki Komori found himself coming out of his self-imposed exile. “I felt like I was in the winter of my life, but today I can laugh, go out, talk to people and live again. I could never have imagined that the pictures I made all alone with just a phone, in my room would go so far. The entire experience has been nothing short of amazing for me.”
He now plans to release a book of his best images by next year. “My solitude kept building up and affecting what I was worth, but I have found a way to bring out the best in me from it. I am glad to not be a hikikomori anymore.”
The path that lies in front of Hiki Komori is a much different one than the one he was on two years ago. He will resurface on Instagram, probably with a different shooting technique and on a different media. For now, he is enjoying his new lease on life with his friends, family, and photos, all of whom helped chase the darkness away.
“I believe in this quote more and more everyday. “A man has to find what his worth is, if he wants to find what is best in him.””
Tips on Making Better Multiple Exposures with Your Cellphone
- Pay Attention to Shapes: Everything around you has some form. You never know what part of your surrounding can make an excellent juxtaposition with a face or body for an interesting work of art.
- Keep Experimenting: The entire point of double exposures is the element of surprise. With constant experimentation, you can bring together two forms in a way you didn’t think possible.
- Stock Up on Photos: Shoot every building, tree, shape and horizon that you see, as these form the collection from which you can create your images.
About Hiki Komori
He works as a website developer and was a designer in the past. His taste in music is eclectic. He could begin his day with rock music, continue with the baroque music of Corelli and end the night with rap music by Tricky. He spends his free time visiting museums, watching movies, reading books and spending time with his children. You can find him on Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr.
This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of Better Photography.Tags: Japan, cellphone photography, double exposures, Hiki Komori, hikkikomori, cellphone double exposure