Amidst the scandals within the sumo world, Hakuho stood as a pillar of strength, silently enduring the criticisms and maintaining his daily training routine even when empty seats filled the arena. In 2010, there was great anticipation for him to surpass the 69 consecutive wins record held by Futabayama. However, he faced defeat against the Kisenosato, missing the record. Ogata recalls the disappointment and solitude he felt.
The day after his defeat, with no reporters or visitors in the stable, Ogata, Hakuho, and his stablemaster shared a meal. Later, they spent time together alone in Hakuho's room, where he confided in Ogata about his loneliness and struggles. This was the side of Hakuho that the public rarely saw, and Ogata cherished the opportunity to capture these intimate moments.
"A smile shown outside the ring, a gentle personality that doesn't boast and is loved by anyone. I believe that in addition to his record of 63 consecutive wins, Hakuho is a Yokozuna who will go down in history for his humanity. By capturing the eternal image of Yokozuna Hakuho through photography, I couldn't be happier if his energy, to the extent that he seems like a human becoming divine, reaches people all over the world," says Ogata.
Ogata recalls that when she was 18 years old and had recovered from a near-fatal accident, she asked a famous fortune teller in his hometown of Kumamoto if she could become a photographer, and was told this.
"If you appreciate shadows, you can become one."
In her early work, Ogata photographed black individuals she met in a New York club using only a single light in a condominium room, creating the series "my fabulous friends." She continues this approach in her ongoing personal photo sessions, "Only One by Hidemi Ogata." Her subjects are not legendary icons but ordinary people. Ogata explains, "While photography naturally focuses on light, acknowledging and appreciating shadows allows me to capture a broader perspective beyond extremes."In the substantial shadows that emerge, the figures of ordinary people rise like sturdy buildings enduring the test of time.
“The body may perish someday, but energy remains eternal. The existence of humans is art.”
Ogata's photography focuses on the eternal nature of human existence, even in fleeting moments. Her lens captures Hakuho's exuberant victory roars after practice, the contorted expressions during his first rope-tying ceremony, and the relief he shows when with his parents from Mongolia.
Sumo, developed as a ritual to pray for peace, hides aspects of the wrestler's humanity that remain unseen by the public eye. Ogata's ability to respectfully enter these hidden realms for a moment combines documentary-style humanity with the elegance of fiction.