Ninety-year-old Kimiko Nishimoto of Kumamoto has won worldwide adoration for her unique selfies.
Nishimoto took up photography in her 70s and now has more than 130,000 followers on Instagram. “A camera is a wonderful tool for enjoying life,” she said with a playful smile.
She takes many of her creative photos using the self-timer on a single-lens reflex camera, then edits and arranges them on a computer. She’s turned one room of the house where she lives alone into a studio.
Some of her more “active” shots have her running at the same speed as a vehicle and hanging from a laundry pole. “Actually, I have a bad back and can’t move very well,” she said.
Born in Brazil to a family of Japanese immigrants, Nishimoto was the second-oldest daughter of seven siblings. Her family returned to Japan when she was 8 years old. After managing a beauty salon in Kumamoto and doing other jobs, she married a civil servant and raised three children. Her husband died in 2012 at age 86.
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The Yomiuri Shimbun
“I want to keep taking pictures forever,” Nishimoto said in her son’s studio in Kumamoto.
Nishimoto’s date with photographic destiny came at age 72. A friend encouraged her to take a photography course being supervised by her oldest son, Kazutami, who’s a graphic designer.
Although she showed little skill, Nishimoto felt that looking through the viewfinder gave her a glimpse into a different world. She was hooked. “Even if I’m bedridden, I’ll keep taking pictures of the ceiling,” she said.
One of the assignments during the course was to take a self-portrait. Wanting to do something fun, she took a picture of herself with pens up her nose. Her friend and others liked it, and a fascination with selfies was born.
She learned how to use a computer and imaging-processing technology.
At age 82, she had her first solo exhibition at the Kumamoto Prefectural Museum of Art Chibajo Branch. In 2016, a photo essay book titled “Hitori Janakayo” (Not alone) was published by Asukashinsha Publishing Co.
Her Instagram account gets positive comments from all over the world, and 16,000 people came to a solo exhibition in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward in December and January.
This year the magazine “Tsuhan Seikatsu” published a feature on her called “Jidori no Kimi-chan” (Selfie lover Kimi-chan). It also featured her in a TV commercial.
Nishimoto was shown using a tea kettle as a curling stone, inspired by the performance of the Japanese women’s curling team at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. A member of the magazine’s editorial department said they chose to feature Nishimoto because “we were moved by her appeal, which doesn’t make you feel her age.”
“She doesn’t have any particular talent. It’s like all kinds of ideas come to her as she’s enjoying taking pictures,” said son Kazutami.
“I guess my age got away from me. It makes me happy when I see the faces of people who like my photos,” Nishimoto said.