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May 20, 2022

Meet Haruka Sakaguchi at the IM students-as-curators’ exhibit

There is nothing to say but much to collect – or rather, connect – when it comes to the female lexicon. Two of our undergraduate students in the 2021-2022 Arts Curating programme at Istituto Marangoni Firenze, Pia Diamandis and Elena Tortelli know this well.

From left to right, Pia Diamandis and Elena Tortelli

From left to right, curators Pia Diamandis and Elena Tortelli

Diamandis and Tortelli’s online exhibition at is titled "A Feminine Lexicon". It stemmed from Museo Salvatore Ferragamo’s proposal to invite our students to imagine a contemporary response to "Women in Balance", the 2022 exhibition curated by Stefania Ricci and Elvira Valleri at Palazzo Spini Feroni, open to visitors from today.

Among the eleven international contemporary artists, our two students selected the documentary photographer Haruka Sakaguchi (b. 1990, Osaka, Japan) for their project.

Haruka Sakaguchi, digital photograph

A portrait of Haruka Sakaguchi (Courtesy of the artist)

Based in New York City, Sakaguchi developed her work, Quarantine Diary, as a combination of photographs and diary entries. While confined inside her flat during the March 2020 lockdown, she forced herself to take just one photo and a few diary notes every day to have a new routine to stick to. This practice helped Sakaguchi maintain a mental balance during those times of forced confinement.

For the launch of the exhibition "A Feminine Lexicon", the artist discusses with Pia Diamandis and Elena Tortelli her Quarantine Diary as a product of necessity, the complicated relationship with her handwriting – do you know who a kikokushijo is and how it can be immediately revealed? – and how a photographic work should engage in regenerative – not reactive – image-making practices.


How do you define yourself as an artist?
I am a visual storyteller who uses photography to explore cultural identity and intergenerational trauma.

Since you are now one of the eleven artists exhibiting in A Feminine Lexicon, how would you describe your feminine lexicon?
While my work is mainly informed by my cultural identity rather than my gender identity, I am grateful that many of my femme mentors and colleagues in photojournalism are leading the movement for slow journalism and paving the way for photographers like myself to engage in regenerative – not reactive – image-making practices. In a fast-paced, consumption-driven media landscape, I often turn to the works of femme image-makers to remind myself of the true potential of visual storytelling.

Haruka Sakaguchi, digital photograph

Haruka Sakaguchi, April 11, 2020, 2020, digital photograph
Diary entry:
"April 11, 2020
Another friend was diagnosed with COVID-19 today. The walls are closing in."
(Courtesy of the artist)

Tell us how you defined the structure of your Quarantine Diary project, exhibited in A Feminine Lexicon.
Quarantine Diary was less a product of deliberation and more a product of necessity. As mentioned in the description, it was a photo diary that I kept during my first month of isolation to prevent the unravelling of past mental health issues. The only stipulation – to take one photo a day – offered a much-needed sense of structure back when everything else seemed profoundly conditional.

Haruka Sakaguchi, March 25, 2020, 2020, digital photograph

Haruka Sakaguchi, March 25, 2020, 2020, digital photograph
Diary entry:
"March 25, 2020
Woke up to news that my Chinese friend got jumped on the subway last night. He was on his way back from the hospital, caring for his brother who was recently admitted for a non-COVID-related illness. He is okay physically, but his partner fears that it may have triggered his PTSD.
I spent the rest of the day trying to stay busy and productive, so my mind doesn’t wander off to dark places.
I'm scared to go outside.”
(Courtesy of the artist)

You often shoot photographic series using handwritten texts alongside the photographs, such as The Original New Yorkers with portraits of New York natives affected by gentrification. But there is also I Will Not Stand Silent, a series of portraits of 10 Asian Americans and their reflections on racism during the pandemic. Why is calligraphy such a recurring theme?
In Japan, a person’s handwriting is considered a reflection of their character. I have had a complicated relationship with my own handwriting because no matter how fluently I spoke Japanese or acted like a native Japanese, my handwriting instantly revealed that I was a kikokushijo, or a repatriate child. Because photography as a practice is inherently extractional, I have sought out ways to collaborate with the individuals that I photograph. Including their handwriting in work seemed like a natural solution given its deeply humanising and revelatory nature.

Haruka Sakaguchi, digital photograph (Courtesy of the artist)

Haruka Sakaguchi, March 23, 2020, 2020, digital photograph
Diary entry:
"March 23, 2020
Got my first coronavirus assignment today. Some people say I am an idiot for taking the job, but my photographer friends understand – if not for the money, for the reminder that I can still be of use in this world."
(Courtesy of the artist)

What can we expect from you in the near future that might relate to themes of female identity?
I am currently working on a portrait project addressing Japanese Americans’ forced removal and incarceration during WWII. While it does not relate to themes of feminine identity per se, it will be a human-centric project that focuses on the survivors’ individual experiences and how the survivors’ descendants continue to carry their elders’ trauma. I have been inspired by Dorothea Lange’s humanistic coverage of the camps, and I hope to continue her legacy by pursuing this project.



Pia Diamandis and Elena Tortelli
Undergraduate students in the Arts Curating program, Firenze


"A Feminine Lexicon" is an online exhibition curated by Pia Diamandis and Elena Tortelli, students of Arts Curating at the Istituto Marangoni Firenze and editor at magazine, for the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum. It is now online at