Clear Nude: The Lens + the Nude, Issue IV, Summer 2015 ClearNude: The Lens + the Nude, Issue IV, Summer - Page 66

fact is that the ‘traditional’ white attire we often see Although the tradition is still maintained across many Ama divers wearing was also created by Mikimoto. He parts of Japan, the skinny-dipping practices of old observed how surprised the foreign tourists visiting his have largely been lost. Since the Meiji era, divers wore pearl island were when seeing the Ama diving naked goggles for clarity and in 1964, rubbery, black wetsuits wearing only their traditional loincloth. were introduced. The role of the Mikimoto Ama was to collect the oysters One photographer in particular stands out with his pho- from the seabed so that the pearl-producing nucleus tographs of the Ama. His name was Yoshiyuki Iwase could be inserted. Once this critical process was com- (1904-2001). He was given a gift of a small Kodak cam- pleted, the Ama then carefully returned the oysters to era when young and found his muse in the beautiful the seabed – in a place where they were protected from mermaids of the tired, coastal regions of Japan. Thanks external dangers (such as typhoons and red tide). to his efforts, we can take a step back in time and have a glimpse at what life was like working as an Ama diver, In order to successfully complete this process, each and also see his progression as a photographer mov- diver would have to hold her breath for up to two ing into nude portraits. Since his website is now offline, minutes at a time in often freezing cold waters. Upon I’m gathering up as many vintage pictures as I can for surfacing, the Ama opened their mouths slightly and posterity that I’ll post as its own separate article soon. exhaled slowly, making a whistling sound known as ‘Isobue’. One of the reasons Ama are largely female is said to be their thicker layer of fat than their male counterparts to While traditional Ama divers wore only a fundoshi help them endure the cold water during long periods of (loincloth) to make it easier to move in the water and diving. Anothe