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A Miraculous Shot, Borne of Teamwork | GO Journal ISSUE 04 Behind-the-Scenes Report

A photography studio in Tokyo. An athlete shows up, looking a bit nervous—Renshi Chokai of wheelchair basketball.

Chokai, who’d seen photos of Sae Shigemoto (athletics) from the very first edition of “GO Journal,” said that when he was asked to do the photo shoot, he’d thought simply, “I want to do it; it’d be a good experience to do it.”
And as if to welcome him into the fold, Creative Director Mika Ninagawa met him with a warm smile.

Art x Sports: The Battle for the Best Shot Begins.

1st Quarter:
Light, Clear and Bright on the White Screen

Chokai is at the center of an array of sports wheelchairs placed sporadically around the room. He picks up a basketball, and it’s as if his nerves suddenly fade away. Ninagawa is bent deeply over to her side, peering intently into the camera. The photo shoot is going well.

2nd Quarter:
An Invitation to the “Magic Hour,” The World Before Daybreak.

The colors of the light are infused with warmth, drawing everybody to a world that’s distinctly Ninagawa’s. Chokai wears a sleeveless shirt that exposes the hard-earned muscles in his upper arms, his hair blowing in the wind. “You look so cool!” Ninagawa exclaims. The two occasionally come together to look at the photos and share their images of what they’d like this shoot to be.

3rd Quarter:
The Trajectory of the Ball and the Light

The staff throw basketballs at Chokai, intentionally throwing them all over the place to create movement. Chokai—wheelchair basketball Japan representative—catches every one of them. He even shows off a trick called “tilting,” raising one wheel of the chair off the ground to gain height, and the studio erupts in cheers and applause. He then raises the basketball high in the air, and goes into his shooting stance. The ball and the light overlap. For a moment, it seems like the curve of the light is the trajectory of the ball.

4th Quarter:
The Veiled Athlete.

They then have Chokai position himself against a half-translucent screen. They shine a light from behind him, so that only his silhouette is visible. Ninagawa sets her camera up in front of the screen, and takes photo after photo. It seemed almost like an expression of her desire to capture the identity of Renshi Chokai—an athlete unlike any other—as clearly as she could.

Overtime, and a Miraculous Shot.

Colors upon colors are layered atop one another. Chokai, now dressed in pure white, will serve as the “screen” for these projection-mapped visuals. The studio is now fully engulfed in the world of Mika Ninagawa. “We’re in the zone today!” Ninagawa said, looking around at her staff with a laugh.

“I was a little nervous at first, but the feel of the photoshoot and how it was arranged really made me feel like we were all creating this thing together. Teams aren’t just a thing in basketball—it’s the same in teams like this, working in settings like this. It was honestly really, really fun!”
So said Chokai after the photo shoot, with a satisfied smile on his face.

Chokai had spent his 2019 at international tournaments, overseas tours, and intensive training camp for wheelchair basketball.
“My ability to execute plays within the team is what saw the most growth this year,” Chokai said proudly. This winter, he says, he wants to rebuild his fundamentals and “show the world a levelled-up version [of himself]” as part of his efforts to get ready for the Tokyo Paralympics, now only eight months away. And of course, his eyes are set to beyond the Paralympics as well, with him telling us, “I want to show my team that I can be the center of our plays.”

“It’d be great if all kinds of people see how cool this photo shoot made me look, and become interested in parasports.”

“GO Journal” Issue 04, complete with this message from Renshi Chokai.
Make sure to keep an eye out for the young athletes making their way to the Tokyo Paralympics.

See the GO Journal official website for the photos from this shoot, as shot by Ninagawa, and Chokai’s interview.

● See here for the behind-the-scenes report on Yukako Hata

text by Rihe Chang
photo by Hiro Nagoya

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