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An interview with Photography Lecturer Juneko Haga

NUA Senior Lecturer Juneko Haga started her career in the creative industries with specialist training in the UK. This eye-opening experience changed her creative practice forever. As a professional photographer, Juneko finds her Japanese identity a rich source of inspiration for her creative practice and her approach to teaching.

What did you gain from your experience studying in the UK?

While studying in the UK I learned to be independent. I learned the importance of being open minded, adapting to change, forming and expressing opinions and having the confidence to ask questions. Developing my communication skills in English has also helped me clarify, connect and realise my thoughts and ideas.

How has being in the UK impacted your practice?

Before coming to the UK, it never occurred to me that I could be a representation of Japan and sometimes the East. I also didn’t realise how little I actually knew of certain things about Japan. Every day there are those experiences which raise questions about my Japanese identity and Japan. These experiences and questions have been the source of creative inspirations and central to my practice. I’m interested in issues around cultural identity and the role of photography in our understanding of the world, and the notion of insider/outsider perspectives.

Can you identify anything in your creative aesthetic that resonates with Japanese culture and/or its creative legacies?

Being Japanese is so intrinsic, I’m not sure if I can objectively identify what aspects of my practice resonate with Japanese culture and its creative legacies. However, some have said that the way I take photographs – my obsession for small details and my interest in mixing up traditional and new values, methods and processes – are, apparently, Japanese.

In your opinion, do Japanese students stand to benefit from studying art, design and media in the UK?

Yes! The UK is much more culturally diverse than Japan and I think that significantly helps Japanese students expand their views of the world and enhances creative scope. It is this new point of reference in seeing the world and the self that I think most benefits Japanese students who come to the UK to study art, design and media.

I expect Norwich is different than Japanese cities. Can you explain what your experience has been of living in this city?

To me, there aren’t many distinctive differences between some cities of Japan I lived in and Norwich, but what I experienced at NUA on my first day sums up my experience of living in Norwich: I had been in the UK over 15 years before I joined NUA and it didn’t take long to get fully used to the variations of how my name was pronounced by different people. But when I went around to meet my new colleagues from different departments at NUA on my first day, everyone pronounced my name right. This never happened to me! The variations of how my name is said hadn’t been and still isn’t an issue for me, but when everyone called me by the right name at NUA I felt so welcomed. This is what it is like to live in Norwich. People are readily welcoming. When we are away from home, this welcoming approach, and the sense of belonging we get from it, gives so much strength and comfort.

What do you miss most about Japan?

Family and the sun. To put the latter in the context, I’m from a city on the Pacific side of Japan and often portrayed as “Japanese Hawaii”. Because of this, and perhaps looking though rose tinted glasses, I miss the sun and the Konica-blue sky back home. On the other hand, if I were to choose my favourite light, it’s the September light in the UK – absolutely glorious and extremely inspirational.

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