Kiyan Banuri: Doshisha Photography Circle

This semester, I was able to participate in the photography circle at Doshisha, a student-run club of photophiles. Despite having seldom experience in photography beyond a high-school elective course and VSCO/I-Phone photography, the club gave me space to practice my Japanese skills, socialize with local students, and explore photo-worthy areas in the Kansai region. While excursions to places such as Kifune shrine and Cosmos Garden were the highlight of my experience, weekly Zoom critique-meetings were held in lieu of an excursion. Zoom meetings were difficult to keep up at first, and I felt very disconnected from the group. However, after my first in-person field trip to Cosmos Garden, I connected with members on a variety of shared interests: design, photoshop, and art.

It was not all fun and games, however. Entering the circle was possibly the most difficult part; I did not receive a response through Instagram, Twitter, or email when I solicited to join the circle. When I discovered they were hosting an exhibition, I went and introduced myself. When the entrance process was becoming muddled, I returned to the exhibition the next day and essentially refused to leave until I was able to officially enter the club. At the first excursion at Cosmos Garden, I felt shy and embarrassed to ask to borrow other students’ camera. But this shyness gave way to spontaneous bravery, and in those moments I was able to ask for help, learn about photography from passionate students, and learn useful vocabulary—all while making friends. It was during my CIP experience where I learned the importance to instigate these connections, rather than waiting for someone to speak to me. Not only does this save time, but also allows others–who may not know I speak Japanese–a chance to make a connection as well.

In retrospect, despite the various difficulties in joining, connecting with others, and actively participating in the club, it was through these difficulties where I experienced the most personal growth. As someone who rarely pushes myself to do extensive traveling during the semester, I was gratified for the structured opportunities to travel and take pictures at places that even local Japanese students find beautiful and interesting. As such, the Doshisha Photography Circle gave me the ability to speak and listen to local students in Japanese, learn and practice photography skills, travel around the Kansai region, and learn to overcome shyness in unfamiliar and uncomfortable social settings.