Japan, 2014 – 2019

Japan Pom Pom, 2014 Zentai, 2016

Sugamo Beauty School, 2018

Women Sumo, 2018

I am a Tobi, 2017-18

Fukushima Surfers, 2019

Elderly cheerleaders, a school for senior models, women sumo wrestlers; Tobi construction workers, Fukushima surfers and full-body spandex suit enthusiasts. Six separate series portray different communities of contemporary Japan. The women and men of every community portrayed, however distant from one another, all share a strong sense of group identity. An identity that is chosen and actively performed in daily life practices.

Senior models and cheerleaders both stand against age stereotypes that prescribe older women to wear only what is considered appropriate for their age, while the female sumo wrestlers challenge dominant ideas of femininity and gender roles. On the other hand the Tobi-shokunin, the specialised construction workers with a distinctive cool style, reinforce cliches of masculinity within a traditionally closed and proud community that dates back to the Edo period. Wearing spandex is not only a matter of style for the more recent Zentai subculture: feeling ‘invisible’ is one of the reported effects of tight lycra covering your face and body. By granting anonymity, a spandex costume can ease the pressure to conform to the strict rules of Japanese society. The Zentai’s chosen identity is somehow a non- identity. The last and most recent chapter is dedicated to the surfers community in Fukushima, whose beaches recently regained their popularity as the best surfing spots in Japan.


Laura Liverani is a documentary photographer and university lecturer based between Japan and Italy. Her work has appeared in magazines, books, exhibitions and festivals worldwide. Publications include The Guardian, The Washington Post, Marie Claire, D – la Repubblica, Geo, The Passenger – Giappone for Iperborea. Her long term project on the indigenous Ainu of northern Japan was awarded the Premio Voglino grant in 2015, and later exhibited at solo shows at the Italian Cultural Institute in Tokyo and the Japan Foundation in Sydney. She also exhibited at G/P Gallery in Tokyo and the Singapore International Photo Festival, among others. Laura is part of international photojournalism agency Prospekt and teaches Photography at universities in Italy and abroad. She is currently working on a documentary project on walkability in future cities in collaboration with the University of Milano Bicocca and the University of Tokyo.