At a young age, Natsumi Hayashi had a revelation: Keeping both feet on the ground is overrated.
The Tokyo-based photographer was feeling pressure from all sides. The prevailing wisdom? Hayashi should be grounded. Sensible. Practical.
She wanted none of it.
“I got an idea from an English idiom that says ‘to have one’s feet firmly planted on the ground’ applies to a practical type of person,” Hayashi said in an interview. “In Japan, we have the exact same idiom. But I am not a practical person at all. Therefore, I try not to have my feet on the ground in my self-portrait photos to show my true self.”
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Her self-portraits are so whimsical and unforgettable that they’re sparking an Internet sensation and garnering attention all over the globe. What makes them so unusual? Well, for starters, in each photograph Hayashi appears to be levitating.
She achieves this state of mid-air wizardry by jumping up and down. A lot.Slideshow: Up in the air: Levitating photographer defies gravity (on this page)
“Sometimes I need to jump more than 300 times to get the perfect shot,” she explained. “I set the camera with the shutter speed of 1/500 second or faster to freeze my jumping movement.”
It can take Hayashi anywhere from 10 to 60 minutes to get the right shot. Sometimes she works alone and relies on a self-timer; in other instances, she asks a friend to come along and press the shutter.
She started having fun with this technique about two years ago, and at the beginning of this year she began sharing her photos on her website, yowayowa camera woman diary. (Translation: “A feeble, or weak, camera woman’s diary.” As she explains on her site, “Since I’m yowayowa, it’s really heavy to carry SLR cameras around.”) Following her debut online, her fans have been growing in number daily.Slideshow: Quirks of art: Creators who work in madcap media (on this page)
“I believe that I am becoming [more popular abroad] than in Japan,” Hayashi said. “It is lovely that so many people started taking levitation photos all around the world from countries in South America to Scandinavia.”
Hayashi, who is in her 20s, has been working in photography for two years now as an artist’s assistant. She said she finds inspiration for her work from old photographs from the 19th century.
“They are time machines to me, because I can see actual people and scenes captured in 19th century right in front of my eyes,” she said. “To me, my levitations are also time machines since they are just photographs of jumping moments extracted from the passage of time and are metamorphosed into levitations in the eyes of viewers. ...
“We all are surrounded by social stress as we are bound by the force of the Earth’s gravity. So I hope that people feel something like an instant release from stressful, practical days by seeing my levitation photos.”
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