Nina Poppe
Nina Poppe shows the life of the Ama, a legendary community of Japanese fisherwomen that may be disappearing.

Photographer Nina Poppe (Germany, 1979) has spent a significant and intensive amount of time together with the Ama. These fisherwomen of the Japanese island of Ise-Shima dive for Abalone without diving equipment, in water that is up to 30 metres deep. Abalone is a type of sea snail that is considered a delicacy and commands high prices. The diving is dangerous and tiring, yet the divers often continue to practice their trade into their old age.

However, a big shift is occurring; more and more young women choose life in the cities instead of diving. The abalone are becoming scarce, due to rising water temperatures caused by climate change.  

In contrast to earlier photo series about the Ama that concentrated more on the diving itself, Poppe’s work emphasises the community of the Ama, which is run by women.

Ama, 2011 © Nina Poppe

Nina Poppe photographed the life of the Ama both in the water and on the island. Her images reveal the social context in which these women live. At times, the images seem slightly alien: the women, clad in black wetsuits, large gloves and a white scarf wrapped around their heads, sometimes seem to have stepped out of another world. Poppe’s photographs are characterized by a clear composition and a soft colour palette in which the blue of the sea and the sky is a recurring theme.

Besides the photos by Poppe, the exhibition also includes films that contributed to the myths surrounding the Ama – many thought that the women, who in earlier times dived without masks and wearing just loincloths, were searching for pearls. 

This exhibition has been made possible by Van Bijlevelt Stichting and the Gieskes-Strijbis Fund.

Foam is supported by the BankGiro Loterij, De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek, City of Amsterdam, Delta Lloyd, Olympus and the VandenEnde Foundation.

Nina Poppe was born in 1979 in Münster, Germany. She earned a bachelor’s degree in photography from the Utrecht School of the Arts (2003) and a degree in film and photography at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne (2011). She participated in a number of exhibitions in museums including the Fotomuseum Winterthur, Zürich (2007), the Goethe Instituut, Rotterdam (2008) and Kunstverein Leverkusen, Leverkusen (2012). Poppe has produced two films; Sunrise Dacapo (2008) and Stichtdag (2009). In 2010, Kehrer Verlag published her book Ama.

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Nina Poppe