Irene Herrera, PhD(c) is a Venezuelan photographer, documentary filmmaker, journalist, and professor at Temple University Tokyo. Among her documentary works are 'Gaijin no Honne' (2004), 'You Can Call Me Nikkie' (2008), 'Women in Refugee: Stories from a Border' (2009), 'Crossing Hispaniola' (2010), and 'Spirits to Enlightenment' (2012). Irene has also been an active collaborator, producer, and director for the Lebanon and Japan Chapters of the Global Lives Project. In 2008, she was a fellow at the Flaherty Film Seminar and, in 2009, a Resident Professional at the Knight Center for International Media. Her films and have been shown at numerous festivals, universities, museums, and art centers in the U.S. and abroad, including the Asian American International Film Festival, the Amnesty International Human Rights Art Festival, the United Nations Association Film Festival, the Boston Latino International Film Festival, the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, and Southwest Arts Festival. Irene often explores issues of gender, statelessness, refugees, and mobility. Her work and love for travel have taken her to over 45 countries where she has learned 5 languages. She lives and works in her hometown Tokyo, when not filming and shooting further afield.
Kara Besher has suffered from wanderlust for most of her life. Leaving her native New York to bicycle across America as a teen, she then backpacked through Europe for a year before landing in Japan, where she has made her home since 1985. After graduating magna cum laude with a degree in Art History at Tokyo’s Sophia University, along with certification in Fine Art Appraisals at New York University, she founded her own art gallery supporting emerging young Japanese artists. She has curated numerous exhibitions, organized symposiums, and lectured frequently at colleges including the prestigious Keio University. Kara is a regular contributor to magazines and newspapers on Japan’s art scene, and is the author of “Contemporary Art Walks” in a Tokyo guidebook published by Stone Bridge Press. Media appearances include interviews in 'Newsweek', 'New York Magazine' and prime-time TV shows. She speaks and reads Japanese fluently, and spends her free time pursuing first-hand experience of Japan’s culture and subculture. With a particular interest in indigenous Buddhist practices, she has endured rigorous Yamabushi training with ascetic mountain-dwelling monks, and traveled 30 countries including remote areas such as Lombok and Mt. Kailash in Tibet. More of an urban explorer these days, Kara’s current passion is unraveling hidden aspects to Tokyo, always with a unique insight into visual anthropology.
Natalie Close is a PhD candidate in Visual Anthropology specialising in Japanese culture. She is currently researching community festivals in Japan and is engaged in making a documentary film on hierarchies within the festival. She has spent the last ten years living and working in both rural areas of northern Japan as well as Tokyo. She has travelled extensively throughout Japan and has a keen interest in experiencing local food, traditions and culture. She currently works as a professor at several universities in the Tokyo area, teaching various aspects of Japanese culture, including religion, art and popular culture. In addition, Natalie is engaged in many art projects both in Japan and abroad, as well as working as a freelance photographer.