In 1927, aged just 17, Haruo Ohara and his family emigrated to Brazil from Kochi in southern Japan. After arriving in the bustling port of Santos, they made their way into the agricultural interior of São Paulo where they worked as labourers on the renowned coffee plantations.
Soon afterwards, Haruo's parents were able to purchase their own land in what is now the city of Londrina, named after its original British settlers and persistent fog, just over the border in the neighbouring state of Parana. On this new family plantation, Haruo began photographing daily life, offering a fascinating insight into the world of the pioneering Japanese immigrants.
Japanese migration to Brazil began in earnest in 1908, when the Brazilian government began an immigration policy to replace the largely Italian labour class that had been brought in to work the coffee plantations and farms after abolition.
In a blow to the Government's ambitions to seamlessly replace black slave labour with 'Europeans' - Brazil was one of the last countries to fully abolish slavery in 1888 - the Italians and other immigrants were quick to migrate from the rural hinterlands of São Paulo and into the more prosperous industrialising urban centres.
Today, Brazil is home to the largest community of Japanese descendants outside of Japan. These Nipo-brasileiros, as they are called, have played an important role in forging the Brazilian national identity during the 20th Century. Furthermore, they have influenced the development of many local crafts and skills, including that of almost vanished Brazilian tailoring, which has only recently been revived.
Despite having his land confiscated by the state during the second world war and turned into what is now Londrina airport, Haruo went on to become one of the most important photographic chroniclers of the Japanese immigrant experience in Brazil. A curated selection of his work can be seen on our Pinterest board.
After Haruo's death in 1999, his extensive collection of photographs, once thought lost, were donated to the Instituto Morreira Sales in Rio de Janeiro.
To celebrate the centenary of Japanese immigration, Londrina film maker Rodrigo Grota produced a stylised short delving into the lens of Haruo.