About Us

Mako Kumano:

Ms. Kumano was born in Niigata Prefecture, Japan.  She has spent her professional career in Tokyo and New York.  Ms. Kumano has collaborated with John Charles in the exhibition of his work in locations in Tokyo, Komatsu and Utsunomiya, Japan; Jiangxi, China; Azoguez, Ecuador; and institutions in New York, Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit and Santa Barbara.  Ms. Kumano received acclaim for producing a performance of Yoko Ono's Bag Piece at the Museum of Modern Art in August, 2015.  She also assists Mr. Charles in his philanthropic activities, which have supported children’s health issues, women’s rights and endangered animal species.

John Charles:

Born in the Midwest, Mr. Charles began his study of photography as a pre-teen, in order to document a family trip to the Gettysburg battleground, one of his earliest experiences in grappling with the implications of cross-cultural conflicts.  He gained further insights into the clash of cultures – both religious and national – when he transferred from a Catholic primary school in Ohio to an evangelical Christian missionary high school in Korea, due to his father’s job relocation.   Additional knowledge of the complexity of cultural constructs was gained by moving to Japan after living in Korea, and realizing that much of the history he learned in Korea was subject to reinterpretation from a Japanese perspective.  

Charles’ education includes a Research Fellowship in Media Production at Nihon University’s College of Fine Arts, additional study at Aoyama Gakuin University and the Inter-University Center (all in Tokyo, Japan) as well as art history and media production classes in the US and courses at ICP in New York, along with training received in the photography darkrooms of the 8th US Army base in Yongsan, Seoul, Korea.  He laments that in spite of his professional media experience, he still needs help keeping his computer networks updated.

Having photographed teddy bears in twenty-one countries on all seven continents, and given the geographic distribution of his Facebook friends and collectors, Charles considers himself justified in his self-reference as a “world renowned teddy bear photographer.”  

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