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Unless you’re one of those lucky people born into a world of privilege, chances are you had to do something a little less cool to float your passion project before your talent blew people away and you could do whatever you wanted. Such was the case for photographer Hiroji Kubota, who paid for rolls of film and equipment in the beginning with some paltry earnings culled from working for a Japanese catering business in 1960s Chicago.
Just three years of slinging hors d'oeuvres to American party people, Kubota got his first official gig, photographing Jackson Pollock’s grave for the UK newspaper, The Times. By 1968, Kubota returned to Japan, winning various photographic awards and eventually becoming a member of Magnum, one of the world’s premiere photographic cooperatives.
With a college degree in Political Science, Kubota’s images have always been rife with unspoken commentary, offering a dialogue on the proverbial state of nations, whether it be documenting the anti-draft demonstrations of the ‘60s, taking portraits of Japanese ambassadors, or snapping shots of kids running around a then-decrepit Harlem.
Also of note, however, are Kubota’s landscape portraits, which capture that magical element of Asia—fog resting in between jagged mountains, men carrying around fish their same bodyweight. It is a testament to a person’s talent when they are able to capture both the majesty of the natural environment, and the complicated lives of the people living within it.
Photos courtesy of Hiroji Kubota and Magnum.