“I tend to look for stories that are less told than others,” Liverani said in an interview with La Fiamma.
It’s a penchant which has taken her almost 10,000 kilometres across the world on a regular basis, from Italy to the island country of Japan, where she has been living and working on and off for years.
Liverani said that she first visited Japan in 2007, on a trip from Shanghai, China, which was where she began taking photos as a professional photographer.
“Subcultures in China were up and coming so I just decided to go and see what was going on,” she said.
“My first story that was published was about Chinese punk bands.
“But after my first trip in Japan I just couldn’t help going back all the time, because I found very interesting stories to tell, as a photographer.”
Liverani said that although her practice is based on real people and stories, she is not a photojournalist.
In fact, “the outcome is sometimes even closer to fiction”.
Liverani said that both interest and social justice play a role in the subjects she chooses to photograph.
One of her series, ‘Ainu Neno An Ainu’ captures the Indigenous population of Northern Japan: the Ainu people.
Liverani was inspired to follow this subject in 2009 after hearing that in 2008 these people had finally been recognised as Indigenous.
She said that after the Japanese colonisation of Hokkaido the Ainu people were given Japanese names and forced into assimilation by the government during the Meiji period.
Liverani’s photographs capture elements of an ancient and still-surviving culture.
She said that the project was “really interesting” to complete because she shot most of the series in a small village of 400 people, of which 80 per cent were of Ainu descent.
Liverani and Neo Sora, an American film director with whom Liverani collaborated for a documentary film on the Ainu, were “kind of adopted into the community”.
“We lived in the village for two months, and now after the project is finished we keep going back and we are kind of like part of their extended family,” she pondered.
Another subculture which Liverani has photographed is the Japan Pom Pom, a group of elderly cheerleaders who Liverani said were “very tough”.
“Most of them are in their seventies, and they can do flips,” she said.
She mentioned that she is still inspired by her home-country of Italy, and is currently working on a project which follows Italian liscio dancing and the youth who are still interested in this kind of ballroom folk dance, which features accordion prominently.
Liverani is currently in Sydney for her exhibition at The Japan Foundation.
She said that she loves the city and would like to come back, perhaps with a project on board, although she finds the outside light very difficult to work with.
“The light is completely different to Europe or Japan,” Liverani said.
“It’s harsher, more contrasting, and if I ever do a project here and it’s not going to be indoors then I will have to reconsider my technique.”
Laura Liverani’s exhibition ‘Coexistences: Portraits of Today’s Japan’ is running at The Japan Foundation until June 21, 2019.
For more information head to The Japan Foundation’s website.