Ai Iwane (ACC 2022) is a Japanese photographer who began her career in 1996. She attended Petrolia High School in the United States – an alternative school located in Northern California – where she led an off-grid and self-sufficient life while studying. In addition to various magazine and music-related assignments,  Iwane’s work focuses on observing and documenting communities around the world. Through intensive fieldwork and interviews, Iwane unravels the natural lore and intangible culture that each community holds, creating photographic and video installations from that research. By connecting deeply to the memories of multiple communities, she attempts to illuminate the invisible network that transcends the separation of time and space and to acquire a broad view of history and geography. 

Iwane’s ACC Fellowship allowed her to conduct fieldwork and interviews on the Mattole River and its surrounding area in Humboldt County, Northern California, and learn about the regional community culture of salmon and people. She studied the first citizen-led movement in the U.S. to restore the salmon runs and conserve the watershed by environmentalists who moved to the area in the 1970s, and much of her work centered around community engagement through artistic practices such as theater. Iwane also observed the Mattole salmon spiritual culture and intergenerational traditions of the Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria – the indigenous people of the watershed.

In the video below, Iwane speaks briefly on her ACC grant experience and shares video and images from her time in Northern California.


Video and photo credit ©️Ai Iwane from the series The Opening (2022) 

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