Part 3: Kosen-rufu and World Peace
Chapter 31: The Great Path to World Peace [31.15]

31.15 Photography Is a Universal Language

The Soka Gakkai’s cultural activities aim to create value in a way that is accessible to all. President Ikeda often takes photographs during his travels across Japan and around the world, and shares them with friends and fellow members as a means of encouraging them. In The New Human Revolution, Shin’ichi Yamamoto (whose character represents President Ikeda) talks about what prompted him to take photographs.

About a decade had passed since Shin’ichi Yamamoto started actively taking photographs. Staff of the Fuji Art Museum in Shizuoka,1 which he had founded in 1973, as well as photographers who were among his friends, began to urge him to hold an exhibition of his work.

Shin’ichi was embarrassed by the idea. He wasn’t a professional photographer, and his aim wasn’t to exhibit his work. But requests for an exhibition gained momentum, and when he thought about it, he realized he had started taking pictures because he wanted to contribute, in his own small way, to inspiring popular participation in the arts, so he finally agreed.

His photographs were shown at the Fuji Art Museum in April 1982 under the title “Images of Peace and Culture.” There were about 250 works, including photographs taken in Europe, the United States, and China.

The exhibition drew a very positive reaction. One viewer said: “The photographs reveal a great love for nature and peace, and I felt enriched by them.” Another commented: “I was encouraged by the uplifting message that the world around us is filled with the dynamism and vibrancy of life. The exhibition invigorated me.”

Shin’ichi’s main motivation for taking up photography had been to encourage members. He was happy and pleased, therefore, simply knowing that people were encouraged by his photographs. The kind words of praise he received for them, he felt, were far too generous.

Soka Gakkai Headquarters staff who viewed the exhibition and compilations of his photography expressed the wish to have Shin’ichi’s work displayed at the Headquarters and other Soka Gakkai centers around Japan. Soka Gakkai centers are meant to serve as “citadels of culture” in the local community. But adorning their lobbies and landings with paintings would have been a huge expenditure. Therefore, Shin’ichi agreed to the request, hoping his photographs would be of some use. Soka means creating value in every area of life.

Shin’ichi’s photographs thus came to decorate Soka Gakkai centers around Japan. Enjoying the opportunity to view them, many members sensed the warm intent they embodied, and felt inspired and encouraged.

Photography is a universal language. A photograph can communicate without the need for words and foster a sense of connection. For example, a picture of rushing water may evoke the dynamism of life, and an image of weeds growing stubbornly from a crack in a rock may impart courage.

Shin’ichi sought to link the hearts of people everywhere through photography, transcending differences of nationality or ethnicity.

Photographs are powerful. When the French literary giant Victor Hugo was in exile, he had many photographic portraits taken of himself, which he sent back to France. He regarded this as a way of challenging the oppression of the dictator Napoleon III.

Hugo’s exile lasted 19 years. No doubt many thought that his spirit would be broken, but his portraits conveyed a different message. The bold images shouted: “I am still here—hale and hearty as ever! I am invincible!” For Hugo, these were more than just photographs.

In a similar way, Shin’ichi considered photographs an instrument for revitalizing people by inspiring joy, hope, and courage. They were a way to encourage members, calling to them: “Do not be defeated! Be strong! Advance with me!”

From The New Human Revolution, vol. 15, “Flowering” chapter.

The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works on key themes.

  • *1President Ikeda founded the Fuji Art Museum in Shizuoka Prefecture in 1973 and the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum in Hachioji in 1983. In 2008, the Shizuoka museum closed and merged with the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum.