Kimiko Nishimoto didn’t pick up a camera until she was 72 years old, but she quickly fell in love with the art of photography. And although the now-89-year-old has an eye for gorgeous images, she has become known across the internet for her kooky selfies.
Her viral photography writes another incredible chapter in the life of Nishimoto. After spending her first eight years of life in Brazil – her parents had moved across the world to teach agricultural skills to Brazilian farmers – Nishimoto and her family returned to Kumamoto, Japan.
Nishimoto later settled on becoming a beautician, and her father even established a salon at home where she could work. But the 20-something Nishimoto tired of the stylist’s lifestyle. Instead, she was intrigued by the career path that her brothers had chosen.
Interestingly, Nishimoto’s younger siblings had enrolled in cycling school, which would arm them with a license to bike professionally once they graduated. Soon she too held the same credential, and she had a simple reason for doing so.
Nishimoto told The Japan Times, “I wanted to see the outside world. My two brothers were competitive cyclists, and I thought it would be fun to travel around Japan and compete in the same way as they were doing.”
After a few years on the pavement, Nishimoto’s life changed again when a tax official named Hitoshi visited her dad’s home in Kumamoto. He would one day become her husband, and their wedding would mark the end of her professional cycling career.
Nishimoto said she quit cycling because it was “a pretty dangerous sport,” and she quickly took on a much tamer way of life. After all, she and Hitoshi welcomed their first child, a son named Kazutami, soon after they had said, “I do.”
From there, Nishimoto welcomed two more babies and spent more than 45 years serving as a wife and homemaking mom. Kazutami told the newspaper that his mother hadn’t been especially hilarious then.
But it would be Kazutami who would help his mother find her humorous – and artistic – side. That was because Nishimoto’s eldest son had begun his own photography school in the late 1990s, through which he helped others learn the art of fashion portraiture.
Kazutami also offered an amateur class, and his mother’s friend asked Nishimoto if she’d like to sign up, too. At that time, she was 72 years old, a fact that barely registered for her son and teacher. “I didn’t really think about my mother’s age when she joined my class. Photography has no age limit,” Kazutami said.
His mother clearly felt the same way – she was hooked after a few sessions. “I love the sound of a shutter clicking. Cameras have opened a window to another world for me. It would be boring just sitting around the house all day,” Nishimoto said.
One photography assignment in particular would change Nishimoto’s life – her homework in self-portraiture. Since dabbling in the art form in her son’s class, she has become internationally known for her hilarious shots.
Her son can hardly believe the success Nishimoto has achieved through her photography. “I never would’ve thought she’d take it this far,” Kazutami said. But his mother appears to have to taken his creative philosophy to heart. “There are no rules in art. Photography is all about playfulness,” he said.
As such, Nishimoto’s process for creating her images is quite simple. Once she has an idea for a shoot, she assembles a tripod, poses and takes her self-portraits with the help of a remote control. She also picked up skills in Photoshop in her class more than 20 years ago. Consequently, she can spice up her pictures that way too.
On top of that, Nishimoto also uses her age and stoop to inspire her in brainstorming ideas for her portraits. For instance, she has captured herself whizzing by in a motorized scooter or moseying by with her walker – she needs the latter to get around.
One image features Nishimoto wrapped in a trash bag, which is emblazoned with “household burnable garbage” in Japanese. She explained the image to The Japan Times with a laugh. “I saw the garbage bag filled with trash and figured I might as well be trash, too, because I am old,” she said.
Nishimoto has gained plenty of viral fame for her photos – as of November of 2018, she has 203,000 followers on Instagram. In 2016 she published her own book of photos that includes both self-portraits and traditional photography.
And, of course, Nishimoto continues to hone her craft by going to Kazutami’s classes. She stays active creatively, as well as socially – she admitted to going out occasionally for a bourbon too.
“I am bad, I go out a lot at night,” a giggly Nishimoto said, before assuring readers that her son chaperoned her evenings on the town. This joie de vivre would only carry into her 90th year of life in 2018, and she promised that her age would do nothing to slow her down.
Nishimoto, today a great-grandmother of five, said, “If I ever become bedridden, I will continue to take photos lying down – even if it only means photographing the ceiling. I will never let go of my camera.”