July 14, 2001
Oregon Country Fair: A photographer's pilgrimage
By DYLAN DARLING
VENETA - The Oregon Country Fair is a candy store for photographers. And
after traveling from Japan to attend the past eight fairs, it's safe to say
Shiggy Yoshida has a sweet tooth.
"Here is a promised land, a world that people wanted in the '60s - we do
have it for three days," the Japanese photographer said Friday, the opening
day of the colorful festival.
Yoshida returns each year, he said, to see people painted in metallic
coats, dressed in psychedelic tie-dyed clothing and decked out in feather boas.
And he also comes to capture the images on film and take them back to Japan.
"I want to tell of this culture to the Japanese in Tokyo," he said.
Most Japanese have a vastly different perception of the stereotypical
American than what is captured in his
photographs, he said. To help them better understand, he organized a photo
exhibit in Tokyo last year.
His "Hippies in the '90s" exhibit turned some heads.
"When I show the pictures to them, they are so surprised when I tell them
where it is," Yoshida said. He said most Japanese who see the photos
initially think the images must be from India or some other exotic land.
Yoshida said he likes the principles of "hippie" culture - peace, love,
harmony - and wants to bring those ideals to the attention of people in Japan.
"It's not counterculture now, it's part of society in the States," he said.
Yoshida graduated from the University of Oregon with a mathematics degree
in 1994, and is a publisher of the magazine "Iroha" in Tokyo.
He first attended the fair while in college and has returned every year
since to visit friends and take photographs.
For the past two years, Yoshida has been focusing on families at the fair.
That's one reason 2-year-old Rainer Hanson, who was peacefully slumbering,
caught his attention as the subject for a photo.
Rainer's mother, Corbyn, is a San Francisco Bay Area resident attending the
fair for the first time. She said she likes the freedom and artistic
creativity of the fair - all of which she said could be translated through
"More photos should be taken - it's a magical event," she said.
As he covers the fair's grounds, Yoshida also sees many familiar faces.
"Some of them already know me because I come every year," he said of his
Among the regulars are Steve and Dawn Phun of Seattle, or "The Blue
People," so dubbed because they coat their bodies from ankle to eyebrow
with deep blue paint. Dawn said the couple's artistic expression is for all
to enjoy, be it in person or through a photograph. "We are anybody's eye
candy," she said.
Yoshida considers many of the regulars his extended family - his fair family.
"He is always sure to preserve the nature of the fair," said Tim Moxley of
Seattle, who has seen Yoshida at the fair every year for the past eight
years. "The rest of the world can now see this special thing we do."
Yoshida has a partially paralyzed left leg, the result of a neck injury
suffered in a rugby accident, and covers the fair's grounds with the help
of a crutch.
The former Japanese national rugby team player said he enjoys taking sports
photos because he feels he, too, participates through his pictures. It's
the same feeling he gets at the country fair.
"I'd love to stay here, so to join them I take pictures," he said.
Yoshida described the fair as an ideal place because there are no cars and
the people get along. He plans to keep coming back, with camera in hand and
tripod strapped on his back.
He also plans another show in Tokyo sometime this December and wants to
compile his photographs into a book.
"I want to tell the people in the future that peace is good," he said.
More information: Call 935-3247 or on the Web, www.oregoncountryfair.org.
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