About Chino Otsuka

Chino was born in Japan and came to Britain at the age of 10. The core of her photographic research is based on this unique autobiographical experience. In many of her works, Chino uses the form of self-portrait to explore themes of belonging, identity and memory.

For Chino, memory is a form of storytelling and this narrative element is very important throughout her work. Chino is preoccupied with the idea of home, displacement, memory and loss. What makes a place a home and where does a sense of belonging come from? For Chino, tracing back and recreating the past is a way to deal with such issues and many of her self-portraits are situated at places where she once belonged.

1975 and 2005, Spain - Double self portrait

The imaginary and reality, reflection and projection, past and present are all recurring themes in Chino's work. Like her dual inheritance of East and West, she is always travelling between two worlds.

Past Projects

Imagine Finding Me

Imagine Finding Me is a series of unique double self portraits which are created around a collection of childhood photographs taken from Chino's family album. In these digitally manipulated and composite images, Chino's present and past selves are snapped together in various locations and situations. As Chino describes, “the digital process becomes a tool, almost like a time machine as I'm embarking on the journey to where I once belonged and at the same time becoming a tourist in my own history”. In this, her first UK publication, her autobiographical texts and photographs are combined for the first time.

I have a chance to meet,
there is so much I want to ask
and so much I want to tell.

1976 and 2005 Kamakura, Japan - Double self portrait


'When I start playing with a memory I take the whole place as a theatre. It becomes a theatrical space, where I act out and direct in my own memory'.

At the age of 10, Chino Otsuka moved from Japan to England to attend Summerhill School, a self-governing boarding school founded by A.S. Neill.

The photographs from the series Summer, deal with one aspect of her experience as a Japanese person living in England. They show the artist revisiting both the site and the memories of her time at the school.

In much of her work, Chino chooses self-portrait as a way of exploring her cultural identity; a double identity of Japanese origin and continued influence, yet one also firmly rooted in western culture. She addresses the task of maintaining a relationship between these two backgrounds through her work and her daily life.

Exhibition: Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK

Her photographs are carefully constructed to place an emphasis on the relationship of the figure to a specific space. She does this by employing techniques used in cinema and film making such as specific lighting, staging and narrative to allow viewers to develop an emotional response to her work.

Although Summer is based on a very personal recollection, the series plays on universal experiences of school and the endless English summers of childhood to evoke the viewer's own associative memories.