Taking Purikura: Vernacular Photography and Contested Female Visibility in Japan

Lavender-Kehoe, Mina. 2022. Taking Purikura: Vernacular Photography and Contested Female Visibility in Japan. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis is an exploration of purikura, a type of Japanese photo booth that has been prevalent since the 1990s - these machines, which utilize a broad variety of technologies to allow users to draw on, manipulate or beautify their appearance, serve as a popular form of vernacular photography among young women in Japan. It has been theorized that purikura machines serve as a means of public display of relationship networks, as a form of social capital, and as a tool for the crafting of new friendships. Through the use of these machines as a participant observer, as well as an engagement with the social media, magazines, films, music and manga (comics) favored by interlocutors, this thesis expands on the mediascape purikura persists within to better contextualize this practice. Through participant observation, this thesis expands on the kata, or practiced coordination required in purikura production, demanding an attention to poses, symmetry and group camaraderie. These photographs, which are often utilized for the commemoration of fashion and leisure activities, also serve as a form of conspicuous consumption - this is further enhanced through the beauty practices that these machines work in tandem with, creating an exaggerated gender performance of emphatic femininity in retaliation against larger social expectations of marriage and motherhood for young women in Japan. As a form of digitally enhanced photography that is circulated broadly across social media, this thesis also explores the potential for the proliferation of purikura photographs to be understood as a technologically-mediated cyborg selfhood with a global audience. Through purikura, many young women in Japan are using self-directed photography to describe meaningful life events, peer relationships, and emotions - purikura users challenge normative classification, choosing instead to align themselves within their own subcultures in ways that are unreadable to those who do not participate, where beauty practices have been utilized for in-group classification, further questioning the boundaries of normative Japanese femininity.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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Japan, photography, anthropology

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



31 December 2022

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

09 Jan 2023 15:53

Last Modified:

09 Jan 2023 18:00



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