What is it?
Kevin J. Miyazaki (b. Wauwatosa 1966)
Anastasia, J-1 Visa Worker, Russia
Archival pigment print
20 x 16 in.
Gifted 2019, Kevin Miyazaki
About the Work
Kevin Miyazaki often uses portraiture as a vehicle through which to examine place. In his project Perimeters, for example, he circumnavigated Lake Michigan photographing individuals who rely on that body of water for their livelihood or leisure. In their totality, the images construct an oblique insight into place.
In 2018, Miyazaki was one of three contemporary photographers commissioned by the Museum of Wisconsin Art to capture Wisconsin Dells as part of the exhibition Among the Wonders of the Dells. Miyazaki set up shop in H. H. Bennett’s historic photography studio, inviting passersby to have their portrait taken. The result is a visual cross-section of the contemporary Dells: vacationing families, summer workers on J-1 visas, tourists from far-flung corners of the world, and notable townsfolk.
Miyazaki requested that subjects pay tribute to a hallmark of nineteenth-century portraiture by not smiling. The solemnity has a number of explanations, chiefly the long exposure time required by early photography, but also the possibility of poor dentistry and/or the conviction that smiling was unseemly—it connoted a lack of character. Certainly, having one’s photographic likeness taken was initially an uncommon and serious occasion in which mirth had no place. Miyazaki did not aim to imitate pictures from the past, however, but to make contemporary portraits in a manner that continues Bennett’s legacy. Anastasia represents the more than 4,500 foreign workers on J-1 visas that are needed to accommodate the more than 4 million tourists who overwhelm the Dells’ 2,978 permanent residents each year.