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Solo Exhibition

From February 01, 2022 to February 28, 2022

The Systems That Shape Us

Aya Okawa

© Aya Okawa, winner of February 2022 Solo Exhibition

Artist Statement


We may tune out - or stop noticing - the infrastructure and systems that most deeply shape our lives as individuals and societies. As we go about our daily routines, do we consider the structures in place that put power in our electrical sockets, food in our grocery stores, plastic in our consumables, or salts in our batteries?

As a photographer & visual anthropologist, when I started flying in small planes I was struck by how tiny our all-important lives looked from above, when moments ago the concerns of terrestrial life had seemed so all encompassing. Flying above my own town, I was shocked by how little I actually knew about the area that I had lived in for years - I drove around and explored on foot (or so I thought) - only to realize that all it took to keep a site out of view was something as insignificant as a 6 foot tall fence, a gate, or even nothing at all in many cases. From above, I could see massive caverns gauged into the earth by bulldozers, vast stretches of electrical lines, landfills sprawling across hilltops, and industrial plants belching into water sources. Much of this I had never noticed or given much thought to.

I became fascinated by capturing images of the infrastructure around my community and globally, visually investigating the infrastructure that surrounds us and exploring the human-made systems that define the foundations of our societies, cultures and economies. In this exploration I became mesmerized by both the human-made and natural patterns that emerged, and it is my goal to share this sense of awe and curiosity with others through these photos. This series was made between 2016-2021 in cities throughout the United States, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, & Belgium.

Curator: Sandrine Hermand-Grisel

The Systems That Shape Us


Aya Okawa is an award-winning photographer and visual anthropologist. In her photos she tries to capture and share perspectives that we might not see in our everyday lives, exploring the greater connections between us as individuals, communities, elements of nature, and as brief moments within even greater, geological timescales. Her work often comes back to exploring themes of interdependence, systems and cycles.

Aya's work has been printed in the National Geographic Magazine, the National Geographic book, 'Spectacle,' Newsweek (Polksa), Natur, Open Skies Magazine, The Washington Post, The Daily Mail, The Guardian, National Geographic Travel, and National Geographic Traveller Magazine. In 2017 Aya was the Grand Prize winner of The Weather Channel, 'It's Amazing Out There' Photo Contest, and her photos have won recognition at the International Photo Awards, PDN, Tokyo International Foto Awards, PX3, The Big Picture, Smithsonian Magazine and the California Academy of Sciences. Her work is featured on the Samsung Frame TV in collaboration with Nava Contemporary.

Aya is passionate about exploring the natural world and supporting the regeneration of ecosystems and wild lands globally.