York photographer captures stunning pictures of abandoned island used in Skyfall movie

This was once a school
This was once a school

This was once a school

These amazing pictures were all taken by the York photographer Makiko.

Eerie, unsettling and captivating by turns, the abandoned buildings in the photographs may seem strangely familiar. That’s because they provided a key location in James Bond movie Skyfall.

This is the Japanese island of Hashima, commonly known as Gunkanjima – aka Battleship Island. With more than 5,000 residents packed into its 16 acres it was one of the most densely crowded places on earth.

Industry on the island, owned by Mitsubishi, was centred around mining the undersea coal.

Makiko’s exhibition

The Atrium Gallery, Old Building, London School of Economics

Tues May 3 to Fri Jun 10

Website

But when petrol replaced coal the mines were shut and all the residents left within a matter of weeks in 1974.

“I grew up in Fukuoka which was a three-hour trip from Gunkanjima and have a vague memory of the island,” Makiko said.

“I had always wanted to visit and it was a real privilege to be granted permission to photograph this extraordinary island where time has stood still.”

This was a hospital

This was a hospital

How did Makiko get permission to land on the island?

“It was a long and stressful process. They turned me down once. Then I reconsidered how to approach all over again, then wrote a proposal then kept following up for numerous times. You have to be tenacious. “


The stairs of this building make a striking pattern

The stairs of this building make a striking pattern

She faced many challenges, not least the harsh climate and rough waves which make it very difficult to land a boat there.

The second challenge is that you don’t know what you would actually see or what would happen to you psychologically as it was like a war zone looking on surface. So I tried to shoot as many as possible.

The island appeared as a haunting backdrop in 2012 Bond movie Skyfall, representing the evil home of villain, Raoul Silva.

The rotting balconies of apartments overlooking some overgrown open space

The rotting balconies of apartments overlooking some overgrown open space

Makiko’s 26 monochrome photographs are taken from a child’s point of view, capturing the childhood memories of a former resident.

They are going on display in an exhibition titled Paradise Revisited: a trip back to a childhood on Gunkanjima in London in May 2016.

“As far as I am aware this is the first time that there has been an exhibition of this abandoned island outside of Japan and I am really honoured to be able show this fascinating story.”

A view through one of the hospital windows

A view through one of the hospital windows

An astonishing place… Gunkanjima island

An astonishing place… Gunkanjima island

Makiko said:

The image of the island from distance (which will be the last image on the exhibition) is the one the Mayor of Nagasaki liked so much and requested me (along with some others) for displaying permanently at the Gunkanjima Museum.
The photographer, Makiko

The photographer, Makiko

You’ve lived in many places around the world; what brought you to York?

I used to live in Suisse Romande (French speaking part of western Switzerland) for 6 years before moving to York three years ago.

I am a mother of two and one of them was on ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) turned out to be gifted in math. As he chose to study in a school in York rather than splitting his time between being at an international school and learning math at a prestigious national university there, I decided to come back to UK, this time York, not London.


Is York a city you’d like to photograph?

I am still searching for what I would like to capture in York.

As I live in the centre of York, I became curious about how Duncombe Place was made.

Last spring, I visited and read various old books on York Minster Library, collected old photographies of the events happened on the place, etc. I even asked to meet Ron Cooke for more information.

During May last year I tried to take 500 pictures around York and, as I shot very early in the morning or very late at night, things did not turn out to be attractive for some reasons.

I paused – nearly one year passed.

I am trying to find something unique, not editorial type of pretty photography about York you could find on internet. Thought about doing a short film as well but did not realize yet.