Gallery Index

Yuriko Urayama

Every morning at four o'clock, my grandmother wakes up to do yoga -- to center herself before the sun comes up. By five o'clock she moves on to dog walking, housecleaning, sorting the laundry, watering the grass, washing the laundry, cooking breakfast and starting to cook dinner -- but only if she’s serving something like a roast or soup, that has to cook all day to taste right. 
My grandmother has kept the same immaculate house on Lewiston Street, in Denver, for thirty years. Her children and grandchildren wander in and out, fall asleep on the living room floor, scoop rice from the cooker constantly on, and then leave -- back to their own homes, friends, lovers, lives. 
When I was little, one of three tiny children running through summer times in her backyard, we were convinced that she was a ninja. Not because she had stealthy moves or trunks of black sashes hidden in the basement, but because she never talked about the past, and we assumed, that that sort of silence was an amazing secret. 
My grandmother has always been a mystery, with her Japanese newspapers and miso soup, bouts of silence and vegetables I can barely pronounce, and she still, to this day, dodges every inquiry about her life with the skills of a highly paid government interrogator. 
All I know, after twenty-three years, is that my grandmother left Japan before she turned twenty-five, and has never been back. I know that her silence is an aching -- a longing for an irreplaceable part of her, lost over oceans and continents and years spent in a country not her own. I know that for her the past is like the backyard fence -- constantly being repainted, washed out by the sun, evolving with her moods. 
When my grandmother is talking, I know that she’s happy -- content making breakfast and being the matriarch of seven. When she’s still, she’s knitting sweaters with her sister; she’s walking through paper walls. When’s she’s quiet, I know that she’s not here.

Ashley Vaughan is a documentary photographer and curator. She has produced several photo essays and recently completed her Master's Thesis, Ghosts of Their Own Making, Haunted Houses and Heroines in Contemporary Photography.