Babson Magazine

Spring 2015

Fascinating, Moving, Magical

Bella Figura

Photo © David Akiba

The influences and interests of David Akiba, lecturer in photography at Babson and a Boston-based photographer, are widespread. “I take photos of anything I find enchanting and moving,” he says.

In 1969, he discovered a mannequin factory in South Boston. “I made many photographs of the mannequins over a five-year span,” says Akiba. “During one shooting session, dozens of mannequins were awaiting shipment in a long room illuminated by a single fluorescent light. It felt like a boxcar going to Auschwitz.” The mannequin project remains important to Akiba today. “That group was the impetus, the foundation for more work,” he says. “It was the realization of that potent emotional content, that spark that got me going. It was the first time I felt that way.”

A father of six children, he has chronicled his family’s life off and on since 1974. Inspired by one of his sons, a soloist with the Boston Ballet, Akiba recently photographed the ballet troupe for almost a year. The photo on this page was taken with a long exposure at a dress rehearsal of Bella Figura in spring 2014. “This dance presents a fascinating equilibrium between men and women, both wearing the same costume,” he says. “You can set up shots to some extent, but you can’t always know what will happen. Sometimes the outcome is magical.”

Akiba also is intrigued by what he can do with images. Often, he will take a picture, print it, play with it, and then rephotograph it. “I create abstract photos in my studio, following the flow of my own desire,” says Akiba. He’s now working with photos downloaded from the Internet, raw images of Saturn and its moons taken by an unmanned spacecraft. “So here are photos from a billion miles away on your computer screen. In a way, it’s incomprehensible, awe-inspiring, and a little frightening,” he says.

Akiba says he follows an idea “until it finally runs out of gas. I’ll work in my studio, then go back to the natural world, the world that I can see. I stay in one or the other until I feel the need to make a change.”