Artist Confronts Mortality With Elderly Alter Ego

With I Used To Be You, photographer Kyoko Hamada explores the joy, humor, and subtle indignaties of growing older.


What if you could spend a day with an older, wiser version of yourself? Would you be happy with the choices you’d made? Do you consider yours a life well-lived, and could you be content in a relaxed routine of elderly domesticity? These are exactly the questions 42-year-old NYC-based photographer Kyoko Hamada, who has contributed to The Wall Street Journal, T, and many others, sought to answer with her photo series I Used To Be You, a mock-doc fine art photo collection in which the artist embodies an elderly alter-ego, maneuvering the modern world as well as the limitations of her own body. “Since 2012, I have been photographing myself as the fictional character ‘Kikuchiyo-san’, an elderly woman living a delicate and fragile existence,” explains Hamada on her Kickstarter page. “Kikuchiyo-san represents those who are often left behind and neglected in the race to live, those who have to find ways to navigate through the obstacles and struggles within the modern world, and those brave enough to face its challenges.” Hamada hopes to turn the series of 99 photographs into a bound book with Pocko Editions, one that fuses “humor, metaphors and storytelling to represent the process of living and aging.” The series, as it stands now, is a powerful attempt to confront viewers with the sad, and often overlooked fact, that life is short, painful, sometimes lonely, and forever beautiful—simultaneously.

Hamada, a native of Japan until her family’s relocation to America at age 15, has spent much of her adult life grappling with her own mortality. The artist has received praise for her photo essay charting the Fukushima explosion for The New Yorker in 2011, a series that brought a more human aspect to the mass devastation. In her private life, Hamada has grappled with these issues through both the death of her father, and the birth of her first child this year. But she has also been touched by the quieter, more mundane aspects of aging, like “finding a few strands of grey in my hair to the changing landscape of my neighborhood.”

Ultimately, Hamada says to think about mortality is really to hold a mirror to one’s own legacy. “It'll be amazing,” explains the artist, “on our death bed, if we could feel content and our last thought to be – ‘I had a good life.’”

If she reaches her Kickstarter goal, the series will become a limited-edition hardback, created with a Japanese typographer in the traditional style. The project will be launched in conjunction with a series of images on exhibition at MOPLA - The Lucie Foundation's month-long celebration of photography in Los Angeles.


The global climate change strikes on Friday are said to have been the largest protest for climate change in history. An estimated four million people participated in 2,500 events across 163 countries on all seven continents. That included an estimated 300,000 Australians, but a total of zero were in Hyde Park in Sydney, despite a viral photo that claims otherwise.

Australian Youth Coal Coalition, a pro-coal Facebook page, posted a photo showing trash strewn across a park after what appears to have been a large event. "Look at the mess today's climate protesters left behind in beautiful Hyde Park," the photo was captioned. "So much plastic. So much landfill. So sad." The only problem is, the photo wasn't taken after a climate change protest. It wasn't even taken in Australia.

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via GOOD / YouTube

Last Friday, millions of people in 150 countries across the globe took to the streets to urge world leaders to enact dramatic solutions to combat climate change.

The Climate Strike was inspired, in part, by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old girl from Sweden who has captured worldwide attention for her tireless work to hold lawmakers responsible for the climate crisis.

The strike gave people across the planet the opportunity to make their voices heard before the U.N. General Assembly Climate Summit in New York City on Monday.

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Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

As world leaders meet to discuss new ways to tackle climate change at the U.N. Climate Action Summit, they might miss one very big part of healing nature – nature. In a new short film, youth climate change activist Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot, a writer for the Guardian, talked about how we need to use nature as a solution to climate change.

There's a huge push to curb emissions, but it's not the be all end all of handling climate change; we also need to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. While we don't have technology to do that for us, there is another solution. "There is a magic machine that sucks carbon out of the air, costs very little, and builds itself. It's called a tree," Monboit says in the film. Researchers found that we could get rid of two-thirds of the carbon dioxide that we've emitted during the industrial era just by growing trees. That amounts to 205 billion tons of carbon. Right now, deforestation of tropical forests is responsible for 20% of current greenhouse emissions.

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Climate Action Tracker

In 2016, 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to combat climate change by taking action to curb the increase in global temperatures. The Paris Agreement requires countries to report on their emissions and what steps they're taking to implement those plans. Now that the countries are coming together again for the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City, it's worth taking a look at what kind of progress they've made.

The Climate Action Trackerkeeps tabs on what each country is doing to limit warming, and if they're meeting their self-set goals. Countries are graded based on whether or not their actions would help limit warming to 1.5 degrees C.

According to a recent article from National Geographic, The Gambia, Morocco, and India are at the head of the class. "Even though carbon emissions in The Gambia, Morocco, and India are expected to rise, they'll fall short of exceeding the 1.5-degree Celsius limit," the article reads. Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States, on the other hand, get a big fat F. "Projected emissions in Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United States are far greater than what it would take to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius."

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Screenshot via (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

Thunberg has dedicated her young life to waking up the world to the climate crisis we face and cutting the crap that gets in the way of fixing it. Her speeches are a unique blend of calm rationality and no-holds-barred bluntness. She speaks truth to power, dispassionately and unflinchingly, and it is glorious.

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