A conversation with Tori Toguchi
Tori Toguchi is a Shimanchu-Japanese woman from O’ahu, Hawai’i who is currently based in Los Angeles, California. Tori has sharpened her photography skills and studied in New York and London. Her photography is a love letter to the simple moments in life and the relationships she treasures.
Cut Fruit Collective: Tell us about your photography/How would you describe your photography style?
Tori Toguchi: I personally feel that my personal work is a mixture of capturing the beautiful moments in the mundane, as well as from the relationships I would like to build or have with the individuals I photograph.
Cut Fruit Collective: How did you end up choosing photography as your artistic medium?
Tori Toguchi: I’m afraid my story is rather dull. One day near my 13th birthday, my mom let me borrow her small point shoot a digital camera at the beach. I began taking pictures of mundane things like a plumeria that fell from a tree. Photography just morphed into something I found enjoyment in and it’s been that way since.
Cut Fruit Collective: What would you say is your inspiration in your photography?
Tori Toguchi: I have always been drawn to the work of of Mao Ishikawa, Larry Sultan, Jim Goldburg, and Rinko Kawauchi. Each of these photographers influence my style of work and the way I see a photograph.
And while this isn’t the extensive list I would like it to be, I also look up to photographers like AnRong Xu, Rachel Halemanu, Josiah Patterson, Jared Soares, Zanele Muholi, Shirin Neshat, Kat Kuo, Wendy Red Star, Jo Metson Scott, and Michael Vince Kim.
Cut Fruit Collective: Where did you grow up, and what communities and experiences shaped your identity as an artist?
Tori Toguchi: I was born and mostly raised on Oʻahu (on Kanaka Maoli land) but I also grew up in Oregon, in the area of the Chafin or Chifin Kalapuyans peoples.
My grandfather has always pushed and supported my interest in our Ryukyuan (Uchinanchu) heritage. My grandmother from Japan regularly nurtured my identity and participation in Japanese culture. In the early days of my photography, I never emphasized my heritage in my work because I was surrounded by those with similar experiences as me. It was not until I moved that I began to see the importance. I started reaching out both in real life and on the internet on what it means to be part of the diaspora. I received such multifold responses that I decided it was important enough for me to photograph and document and create a project out of those feelings.
In 2018, I had the opportunity to participate in a program in Ginoza Village, one of my ancestral hometowns in Okinawa Honto. I trained with individuals who ran Kanna Drive-In, a restaurant that was repurposed into an art gallery by Yu Zakimi, Yuta Nakama, and Tomoya Ogoshi. It made Uchinā (Okinawa) a tangible place for me and inspired me to become more involved in creating spaces that allowed for connection and a telling of our history and culture from our own voices.
Recently, I have created a Shimanchu Discord, and am a co-creator of the Ichariba Choodee Podcast: Okinawan Voices & Stories, as well as the Shimanchu Diaspora Visual Archives.
Cut Fruit Collective: Are there any photo series or projects you’re hoping to do in the future?
Tori Toguchi: brother passed away in 2011, when he was fourteen years old. After he passed away, I realized that I hadn’t spent enough time taking photographs of him and there was very little I could look back at to remember the physical space he took up in the world. The loss of my brother made me more engrossed with the idea of memorabilia and the ways we remember the people in our lives. Generation of Memories, which is a project focusing on my grandparents, is one that I hope I can continue for as long as I possibly can.
Currently, I’m moving into the realm of Library Science and I would love to continue to build spaces for resources and representation that have always been a part of my photographic work and goals.
Cut Fruit Collective: What’s your favorite fruit and do you have any cut fruit or fruit memories?
Tori Toguchi: My favorite fruit is シークヮーサー (Shikwasa), which is similar to Calamansi but is native to the Ryukyus and Taiwan.
While Shikwasa is my favorite fruit, the fruit of my childhood is blackberries. My mom would send my brother and me to an after-school camp, and there would always be blackberry bushes nearby. I would always go to the bush and pick the berries which were always sweet and juicy. ✨