Osamu James Nakagawa was born in New York City in 1962 and raised in Tokyo. He returned to the United States, moving to Houston, Texas, at the age of 15. He received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of St. Thomas Houston in 1986 and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Houston in 1993. Currently, Mr. Nakagawa is an associate professor of photography at Indiana University. He lives and works in Bloomington, Indiana.
Nakagawa’s work moves seamlessly from direct black and white photographs (Kai, 1998-2001) to large color “paintings” (Banta, 2008) pieced together from hundreds of digital files. His accomplishments in the technology of new media and digital photography meld with his unique, personal visual language. Since 2009 Nakagawa has spent much of his time in his “other” home, Japan. His new work centers on the island of Okinawa and its “bantas,” the precipitous and breathtaking cliffs that still bear the scars of the intense battles waged during the Second World War. Utilising digital juxtaposition and shifting perspective, Nakagawa’s views of the cliffs serve as pictorial metaphor for the tension between fear and beauty.
“For years I have carried with me a vivid memory of the first time I stood atop these cliffs – a memory of beauty in the endless blue expanse of sea and sky intensified by the fearsome height and history that met my downward gaze.” — Osamu James Nakagawa (Banta, Sohbido, 2009)
Nakagawa is a recipient of the 2009 John Simon Guggenheim fellowship and 2010 Higashikawa A New Photographer Award in Japan. Nakagawa's work is shown internationally. Solo exhibitions include-Banta: Stained Memory, Sakima Art Museum, Okinawa, Japan; Course: Banta, SEPIA International Inc., New York, NY; Osamu James Nakagawa, Ma-between the past, McMurtrey Gallery, Houston, Texas; Kai: Osamu James Nakagawa, SEPIA International Inc., New York, NY; Mado, Houston Center for Photography. Selected group shows include -Traces and Omens, 2005 Noorderlicht Photofestival, Groningen, Netherlands, Contemporary American Photography, 7 International Fototage 2005, Mannheim Germany; Common Ground, Corcoran Museum of Fine Arts, Washington D.C.; Cuenca, Ecuador Bienal '98: Borderline Figuration; Medialogue-Photography in Contemporary Japanese Art '98, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography; Field of Vision: Five Gulf Coast Photographers, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston. Nakagawa received grants and fellowship from the Japan Foundation; Santa Fe Center for Visual Arts; Indiana Arts Commission; The Light Work, Syracuse, NY; Anderson Ranch Arts Center, Co.; Houston Center for Photography; The American Photography Institute, New York City; Cultural Arts of Houston/Harris County. His work is included in numerous public collections, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, The Corcoran Museum of Fine Arts, Nelson Atkins Museum of Arts; The Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Sakima Art Museum, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, among others.