I have recently acquired a copy of Risaku Suzuki’s book Water Mirrors. It is not only a beautifully constructed book physically, but the imagery is very much related to recent work I have been undertaking. There are no introductions to the book and no captions, just photo after photo. At the end is an essay by art critic Yuri Mitsuda which I found equally interesting with regard to informing my work.
Mitsuda writes “What’s mirrored in the water are the trees surrounding lakes and marshes. The relaxed density of the branches extending toward the lakes form something like a nest that surrounds and protects the quiet water. Just as with a mirror, the trees are captured in the water that reflects them. In water, the leaves are shown in utter verisimilitude, making it impossible to distinguish the reflections from the actual trees standing in the soil and air. The result is a simulacral mime that exists only within the photographs. These scenes would not exist without the intervention of the camera and the lens.”
“When the photographer tosses a rock into the water, the rock creates rifts and turns the water inside out, rustling the surrounding trees. A fluid image resembling an abstract painting appears in the photograph…When the water surface is cut up by a fallen tree, moving water is juxtaposed against still water, bringing disparate temporalities of the material in contact with each other and producing details that fascinate endlessly.” (Suzuki, 2017)
While there is more that could be quoted, I think for now it is enough to show how my work has taken a similar turn.
Paul suggested I also look at the work of fellow Falmouth student Isabella Campbell and I discovered she too is pursuing similar subjects and aesthetics. An example of her work shows the link between Suzuki and my recent work.
I have also begun reading Setting Sun: Writings by Japanese Photographers and two different books on Wabi Sabi, one by Andrew Juniper (2003) and the other by Beth Kempton (2018). I have long held an affinity for Japanese culture, philosophy and aesthetics and I am finding as I research more how much my work and the subjects I photograph resemble what I am reading in the writings and observing in the photographs. I have mentioned before that the house I designed and built in 2006 contains a great deal of Japanese influence and features normally only found in Japanese houses. That influence runs strongly in everything I do.
Shigeo Gocho in his essay Photography as Another Reality, in Setting Sun writes: “Things that some people can see, other people cannot. Things that some people can hear, other people cannot. I once wondered if such a thing was possible, but now I understand it as a matter of distance between reality and fantasy. It is also a matter of how each specific person places himself in this temporal world, as the image of the world is dependent upon this relationship…No matter how much one might say that it presents pure fantasy or delusion, photography is about capturing an image of the outside world, which means that a photograph is only possible if it uses reality as a go-between.” (Vartanian, 2006: 52-53)
Setting Sun is filled with so many gems that absolutely find a home in my head and heart. I have found myself needing through the course of this module to be far more introspective about my photography and the reasons for than ever before. I truly never thought much about and just did what I did. Reading and researching has certainly provided a framework for examining what I do and why and while it is still evolving certain elements have begun to gel in my mind. I asked myself the question “Why do I photograph nature?”
Out amidst nature was always the place that I could go to be myself and exist without judgement. I look at Nature and Nature looks back at me and says “welcome, we are.” People on the other hand judge and seek to separate and categorise. They look at me and say “you are X.” All the people who have ever existed are a single mere speck of dust in geological time. It is very likely humans will not endure as a species and Nature will reclaim them as geological time moves on.
I suppose that this is one of those areas of difference in Western and Eastern philosophies. The West has long held a man versus nature philosophy where nature must be conquered and tamed. It for that matter extended to the idea that “civilised white” people were at the evolutionary pinnacle and anyone who did not fit in that box was just another animal to be conquered and tamed. In contrast, the Eastern philosophies address the art of being in the world beginning with Tao and flowing with the watercourse way and evolving in to Zen which teaches we are part of everything we perceive. There is something at my core that recognises the latter and that is part of what continually draws me away from most people and to the untamed places where I can best be my untamed self.
VARTANIAN, Ivan, Akihiro HATANAKA and Yutaka KAMBAYASHI. 2006. Setting Sun: Writing by Japanese Photographers. New York: Aperture.
JUNIPER, Andrew. 2003. Wabi Sabi – the Japanese Art of Impermanance. First. North Clarendon, VT: Tuttle Publishing.
KEMPTON, Beth. 2018. Wabi Sabi – Japanese Wisdom for a Perfectly Imperfect Life. London: Piatkus.
SUZUKI, Risaku. 2017. Water Mirror. Tokyo: Case Publishing.