Mount Fuji, Chris Steele-Perkins' photography

Chris Steele-Perkins Mount Fuji

Early Morning Shadow of Mt Fuji from Summit, 2000

School Children Practice Baseball Between Gotemba and Fujinomiya, 2001

Japanese Self Defence Force Weapons Training Between Gotemba and Fujinomiya, 2001

Preparing Rice Fields near Gotemba, 2000

Car Park near Gotemba, 2001

Fujiyoshida, 2001

Lake Motosuko, 2000

Filling Station near Shiraito Falls, 2001

Fields near Kawaguchiko, 2000

Refinery at Fuji City, 2000

Artist statement

These are ten images from my book Fuji. The project was shot over a four year period, and all of these images are from 2000 and 2001.

The work considers the place of Mount Fuji, the iconic symbol of Japan, in our modern times, and references the works of the great Japanese artists, Hokusai Katsushika and Utagawa Hiroshige, whose series of woodblocks, 36 Views of Mount Fuji, were a record and commentary on Mt Fuji in relation to the society of their times; the early to mid 1800′s. The images were constructed in a way that Fuji was ever-present, ‘observing’ the landscape and society around it, a discipline I have continued.

Nowadays, Mount Fuji is a national park but it is covered in, or surrounded by, theme parks, golf courses, resorts, cities and scrap yards as well as being used as a military testing ground by both the Japanese and American armed forces. At the same time there are still magical areas of great tranquillity, but they are increasingly being eroded.

The book is not a polemic, but can be seen as a commentary on modern Japan and the erosion of natural beauty in the name of progress. As such, I think it is important that we attend to issues of sustainability and the environment that do not only look at the grand issues of global warming, over population, water shortages and mass migration, but also pay attention to the insidious incursion of environmental decay and despoliation taking place within the supposedly ‘safe’ environments of the developed world. As a National Park, and one aiming for inclusion as a UNESCO World Heritage Site by 2012, Fuji should be free from environmental abuse. Indeed, it should be an outstanding model of sustainability and good ecological management.

My Fuji photographs ask questions around this issue.

About the photographer


1947, Burma



Based in

London, United Kingdom

About Chris Steele-Perkins

Christ Steele-Perkins was born in Burma in 1947, and moved to England with his father at the age of two. He went to school at Christ’s Hospital. At the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, he studied psychology and worked for the student newspaper, graduating with honours in 1970 when he started working as a freelance photographer, finally moving to London in 1971. Apart from a trip to Bangladesh in 1973, he worked mainly in Britain in areas concerned with urban poverty and sub-cultures. In 1975 he worked with EXIT, a collective dealing with social problems in British cities. This work culminated in the book Survival Programmes in 1982. He joined the Paris-based Viva agency in 1976. In 1979, he published his first solo book, The Teds. He also edited and purchased the images for The Arts Council of GB’s book, About 70 Photographs.

Steele-Perkins joined Magnum in 1979 and soon began working extensively in the developing world, in particular Africa, Central America and Lebanon, as well as continuing to document Britain. He published The Pleasure Principle, a work exploring Britain in the 1980s. In 1992 he published Afghanistan, the result of four trips over four years. After marrying his second wife, Miyako Yamada, he embarked on a long-term photographic exploration of Japan, publishing his first book of that work, Fuji, in 2000. A highly personal diary of 2001, Echoes, was published in 2003, and the second of his Japanese books, Tokyo Love Hello, was published in February 2007.

In contrast, a black and white study of English rural life, Northern Exposures, was published in the summer of 2007.