I Give you My Life centres around the women of Japan’s Yakuza.
"Jafé began her journey in the city’s red-light district, where she met men who were low down in the syndicate’s ranks and to her, felt more dangerous than useful. There were introductions and tip-offs from friends and acquaintances – a tattoo artist, a hairdresser. She got a gig as a hostess in a bar, the only non-Japanese person to work there, but had her bag stolen, didn’t feel safe. Two years down the line, it was a chance meeting at a festival that led her to the oyabun. Gradually, Jafé was allowed access to his inner circle and then, only when she gained his trust, she was granted access to his wife.
In a project where gender disparity appears to be so acute, it is interesting to consider the ways in which the photographer’s relationships with the men and women differed. To access the upper echelons of a Yakuza clan is no mean feat, but you sense there was a vanity involved on the men’s part. Jafé must have amused them. She had to be charming, deferent, and harmless. Yet to the ane-san, this young, foreign, woman that her husband was taking to dinner wasn’t necessarily such a benign presence. Aware that the wives and girlfriends viewed her with suspicion, Jafé worked her way in carefully, making friends and navigating through a very particular set of social codes and cues. The portraits that result from this gradually built trust are sensitive, considered and, importantly, they feel collaborative. “You work on luck,” she says, reflecting on that chance meeting with the boss at the festival. But of course, there’s more to it than that."
From 1000 words by Emma Lewis
Limited Edition of 893
20 X 26 mm