This Insta-Famous 89-Year-Old Japanese Woman Takes Amazing Self-Portraits

Kimiko Nishimoto's short photography career has yielded astonishing results.

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May 29 2018, 10:49pm

Screenshot via Instagram

Kimiko Nishimoto started taking photographs in 2001, when she was 72, and in the years since she's carved out a career that's the envy of amateur photographers everywhere. According to the Japan Times, she hadn't even touched a camera before she took a course in photography and image processing taught by her eldest son, an art director at Yubijuku, a design studio near her home in Kumamoto prefecture, Japan. But Nishimoto—a former hairdresser, professional cyclist, and homemaker—became a kind of prodigy late in life. Now 89, she has more than 100,000 Instagram followers from all over the world and had her first solo exhibit in 2011 at the Kumamoto Prefectural Museum of Art.

“I just want to do something funny,” Nishimoto told the Japan Times in February. “As far as I’m concerned, life is all about being playful. I look around my house and am always finding fun things to photograph.”

Nishimoto's work is comprised mostly of self-portraits staged in bizarre ways. She has posed as everything from a frog to a bear to a rabbit—costume and all—and has photographed herself in a garbage bag floating in the air and dangling from a clothesline. She has used motion blurs to capture herself taking off on a broom, chasing demons on her electric wheelchair, and being run over by a car as she casually reads the morning paper.

Part of the joy of skimming through Nishimoto's work is how deviously happy the photos clearly make her. Here photography seems accessible, the sort of thing we like to imagine any of us could create. The images are so connected to Nishimoto's day-to-day life that they seem intimate on top of being absurd—you feel you know her and what she's thinking. At 89, she has the kind of rambunctious mind associated with artists 70 years her junior, the kind of effusive wit that is impossible to teach.

Nishimoto's work was shown most recently at the Epson Imaging Gallery Epsite, located in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward. Her photography has also been collected in a book. She currently posts a new photo to her Instagram roughly once a week.

Nishimoto credits photography with helping her cope with her husband's death, and sees it as a hobby that will stay with her for the rest of her life. “If I ever become bedridden, I will continue to take photos lying down—even if it only means photographing the ceiling,” Nishimoto told the Japan Times, noting that she has already photographed several spiders. “I will never let go of my camera.”

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