Hatarakimono: a Project to Document the Workers of Japan

A friend of mine recently visited Japan for the first time in his life. After the trip he came up to me and told me what he was most impressed with. And it wasn’t the amazing food or the clean bathrooms. It wasn’t the punctual trains or the abundance of cute stationery. It was the workers, and the way each and every one of them took the utmost pride in their work, no matter what the task was. And I was reminded — indeed, the reason why Japanese food is so delicious, and why everything is so clean, is because of the people who pour their soul into these jobs. The Hatarakimono Project is a tribute to these workers; a documentation of the humans behind what makes Japan special.

Conceived by Tokyo-based artist Frank Le Petit, who goes by the name K-Narf (Frank spelled backwards), the Hatarakimono Project began in 2016. And over the span of 14 months the artist photographed 102 workers on the job, in uniform. A portable studio was transported to the site and workers were asked to take a few minutes off from their job to be photographed. If you’ve ever been to Japan you can imagine the paperwork and explanations needed to photograph a train conductor or an elevator operator on the job. Simply obtaining permission seems like a huge task in itself.

The final photographs are presented as tape-o-graphic portraits, a style developed by the artist, and in triptych form. You can see all the portraits on the artist’s website. And if you’re in Tokyo, they will be exhibited at Agnes b. galerie-boutique Tokyo / Aoyama from March 30th to May 5th, 2019. They will then travel  to shops in Kyoto and Osaka.

a postman
pastry shop staff
a gardener
Tokyo Tower attendant
a train driver


  1. Interesting work, website nightmare to navigate.

    • Haha I totally agree! Thought this was quite interesting and went to the website to see more, but quickly gave up 🙂

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