Akito Tsuda's PILSEN DAYS
Born in Hamamatsu, Japan, Akito Tsuda first arrived to Chicago in 1990 while a student at Columbia College. As a newcomer in a foreign place, he felt at home with and was particularly fascinated by the Pilsen community. From 1991 to his departure from the city in 1994, Tsuda regularly visited 18th Street, taking photos of everyday life in the neighborhood and being invited into people’s homes to capture more intimate portraits.
For over two decades these photos remained relatively unseen until 2016, when some of them began surfacing on social media. After an overwhelming positive response and connection to the historical photos, Akito decided to print a book of this photography, titled Made me better than before. Pilsen, Chicago, as a tribute to his wonderful experiences with people in the neighborhood.
During August 2017, non-profit volunteer-run organization Cultura in Pilsen held an online fundraiser for a multi-faceted project focused on Akito Tsuda and his work. The fundraiser reached its goal thanks to the generous contributions of community members and friends, as well as a donation from the Office of Academic Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) at Columbia College Chicago.
With the funds raised, Cultura in Pilsen has organized the printing of a limited release of Tsuda’s new book of photography, Pilsen Days, created by his trusted printer in Japan. The fundraiser will also cover costs for Tsuda to travel from his home in Osaka, Japan, to Chicago for the first time in over two decades, for a series of events around the Pilsen Days book.
"Taking a photo of people on the street has influenced my awareness in many ways . I've learned people's culture, history and various ways of living through taking photographs; however, my primarily interest has not been about finding out distinctiveness between people and me, but rather finding similarity among us. While spending a time to be interested in people and place I met, I photographed people when I've felt being alive."
- Akito Tsuda
“Japanese Photographer Returns with Unseen Photos of 90s Mexican Pilsen” – Chicago Tribune / Hoy
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