In 2010, Japanese photographer Uruma Takezawa embarked on an ambitious journey to explore and document people and places in the world’s more remote corners–where people live off the land and in harmony with nature. Traveling by bus, train, on foot, by horseback and even by kayak, Mr. Takezawa traversed 103 countries on four continents in 1,021 days to fulfill a curiosity about the world’s uncharted corners.
“What inspired me was my interest in unknown worlds,” Mr. Takezawa said in an interview. “I wanted to discover and explore with my camera diverse communities that live in some of the remotest parts of our planet. It was also a personal journey of self-discovery. By traveling alone and meeting different people I also learned about myself. Through my photographs, the unknown world became the known world to me.”
Though his goal was to explore the world, Mr. Takezawa said he did not anticipate more than 1,000 days on the road–initially estimating his journey would last roughly a year. He said that after beginning in the Americas and seeing a year go by, he abandoned his plan to return so soon as he “realized that the world was so much bigger” than he originally fathomed.
“The world that I knew before I started on my journey was a small world that I had seen only through information from the media,” he explained. “The world I experienced during my travels was real. There is pain, joy and loneliness. The world is much wider and deeper than I expected.”
The resulting body of work–simply called ‘Land’–chronicles his global odyssey, from Bolivia to the Middle East, Mali to Brazil, and many other countries along the way. When the going got tough, with just a small backpack and his gear for company, Mr. Takezawa said he relied on his craft to quell his loneliness, forging ahead to make more pictures that could depict how he saw the world–as an immense place.
“This is the most important thing I learned from my journey: Width is the land and depth is the people. The moment when these two intersect, the land and the people become one. It is a moment of spiritual enlightenment. I believe that people in remote areas of the world have a much deeper connection with the land that those of us living in Western society, ” he said.
Mr. Takezawa, who recently won the Nikkei National Geographic Photo Prize, will display the work in his first U.S. exhibition at Foto-Care Gallery in New York as part of the “Shashin: Photography from Japan” festival from April 21-May 5.
As for what’s next, Mr. Takezawa will return home with the lens of his global perspective, examining his native Japan in a new light.
“The long journey was horizontal–it was very broad in scope as it involved many countries and continents. The next journey will be vertical–it will be much narrower in scope but it will be deep. It will reflect what I have learned about the world at large, about myself, and my engagement with my homeland, and with my inner soul.”