Now! After a couple of months of architecture lets have some animals... I came across Yoko Ishii's deer photography on the great online resource L'Oeil de la Photographie (you can sign up for the daily newspaper here). Ishii's photographs were shown at the Angkor Photo Festival from November to December 6, 2014 in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

“Early in the morning, the Sika deer can be found walking in the street" says photographer Yoko Ishii "not bound by man's borders and laws, yet inhabiting a man-made city. It is a fascinating and inspiring scene for me"

© Yoko Ishii

© Yoko Ishii

Yoko Ishii has been photographing the wild Sika deer of Nara since March 2011. Nara is a modern city (the capital of the Nara Prefecture in the Kansai region) and commercial hub, but also known for its historic monuments such as shrines, temples and the Kasugayama Primeval Forest. According to the legends surrounding one particular shrine, the Kasuga Shrine important in the Shinto faith, some of the religion’s key gods was delivered to Nara on deer back. The animals, therefore, have been considered as sacred messengers of the gods ever since. The deer live, predominantly, in Nara Park but the parks boundaries are not clearly defined and the deer so unafraid of humans or traffic that they frequently cross over into the down town streets and claim the city as their own.

© Yoko Ishii

© Yoko Ishii

“The Skia deer in Nara are considered a divine servant of the Kasuga shrine and are protected as a special national treasure” says Ishii “On Miyajima Island, as well as in Nara, the deer are iconic and draw crowds of tourists”

Incredible videos can be found all over youtube and show how tame the deer are, it is possible to pet them and tourist areas sell special ‘deer senbei’ (deer cookies or biscuits) which the deer appear to bow and nod their head for hungrily. In other videos, the deer appear to be more populous than the humans in Nara, lining the streets and roads. Japan seems to have a few of these highly youtubeable animal islands, you might already be aware of Cat Island (Tashirojima) which has a large stray cat population (outnumbering their human counterparts) due to belief that feeding and taking care of cats will bring wealth and good fortune. Then there is Rabbit Island (Ōkunoshima) where it is illegal to hunt or kill the feral but tame rabbits.

The deer, although celebrated in Nara, are not so lucky elsewhere in Japan…

“In various other regions of Japan the deer’s feeding habits are damaging and are causing serious problems for farmers and the local governments” says Ishii “As such, the governments in these affected areas encourage the citizens to practice population management. Every year, more than 360,000 deer are killed in Japan. Inside these arbitrary boundaries created by man, the deer are beloved and treated as if they were domesticated animals. Outside of these boundaries, they are killed as destructive animals and unknowingly go beyond the borders with a spring in their step.”

© Yoko Ishii

© Yoko Ishii

Ishii has a romantic vision for the future of the Nara deer, perhaps projecting a time when tourists will tire of the Disneyfied spectacle and decide that these deer are in fact city-dwelling pests. 

© Yoko Ishii

© Yoko Ishii

“By taking photographs of the free Sika deer in Nara and in Miyajima” the photographer says “I dream one day they will occupy an abandoned town”. Perhaps, in the end, this town will be Nara. The human population realising that the town belongs to the animals after all,  and not to themselves.

                

                                                                          www.yokoishii.com            

Posted
AuthorSacha Waldron

Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto hadn’t really been on my radar until the recent Barbican exhibition 'Constructing Worlds: Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age' which we reviewed on this blog through December and January. The images on display in the Barbican were foggy and blurred, structures such as the World Trade Centre or Chicago’s Marina City captured with a setting on Sugimoto’s camera he likes to refer to as “twice infinity”.

“I decided to trace the beginnings of our age via architecture” he comments on his website “Pushing my old large-format camera’s focal length out to twice-infinity―with no stops on the bellows rail, the view through the lens was an utter blur―I discovered that superlative architecture survives, however dissolved, the onslaught of blurred photography. Thus I began erosion-testing architecture for durability, completely melting away many of the buildings in the process”

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Marina City, Goldberg Associates, 2001, Gelatin-silver print, Image size: 58 x 47", Edition of 5

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Marina City, Goldberg Associates, 2001, Gelatin-silver print, Image size: 58 x 47", Edition of 5

With the exhibition at Barbican now closed it is still possible to see work from the artist in London with Pace London's 'Hiroshi Sugimoto: Still Life' which was previously mounted at Pace New York and has been running since November, closing this coming Sunday (24th Jan). Thirteen of Sugimoto’s large-format photographs produced between 1976 and 2012 are on view and focus on Sugimoto’s ongoing Diorama series, with their sharp black and white tones and super clean focus they are a world away from the architecture series shown in Constructing Worlds but equally as seductive. Some of the work in the exhibition have also not been seen in a gallery setting before with several images from the 1980’s printed here for the first time. Additionally a couple from 1974 and 1994 are being shown in a much larger size than their initial printings.

The Diorama series, as the name suggests, looks at large-scale dioramas in natural history museums. Sugimoto made his first image when he first moved to New York in 1976 and visited the American Museum of Natural History.

“The first time I saw a diorama I was overwhelmed by the fragility of existence that it captured” Sugimoto has said “Being models of nature, dioramas include many of the world’s constituent parts. The only thing absent is life itself. Time comes to a halt and never-ending stillness reigns”

Hiroshi Sugimoto, , courtesy The Pace Gallery

Hiroshi Sugimoto, , courtesy The Pace Gallery

The landscapes in Sugimoto’s images at first sight seem real enough. A polar bear in an arctic landscape stoops over a seal, Californian condor populate a high mountainous vista and huge ostriches jealously guard their nest, keeping beady eyes on the nearby wart hog. These could be photographs capturing the natural world, albeit with a rather gloomy atmospheric gloomy Walker Evans one. As you look closer, however, anomalies start to appear.

Hiroshi Sugimoto, California Condor (1994), gelatin silver print. 47" x 73" (119.4 cm x 185.4 cm). Edition 1 of 5. Edition of 5. (c) Hiroshi Sugimoto, courtesy The Pace Gallery

Hiroshi Sugimoto, California Condor (1994), gelatin silver print. 47" x 73" (119.4 cm x 185.4 cm). Edition 1 of 5. Edition of 5. (c) Hiroshi Sugimoto, courtesy The Pace Gallery

Ostrich-Wart Hog, Hiroshi Sugimoto. 1980. gelatin silver print. 47" x 83" (119.4 cm x 210.8 cm). Courtesy The Pace Gallery

Ostrich-Wart Hog, Hiroshi Sugimoto. 1980. gelatin silver print. 47" x 83" (119.4 cm x 210.8 cm). Courtesy The Pace Gallery

The landscapes are a little too constructed. This reminds me of Stephen Shore’s images of the most common American towns (Uncommon Places) which, in their search for the most basic ordinariness, render the streets, diners and gas stations in the photographs as stage sets, totally constructed unrealities. In Sugimoto’s images the mountains, the deserts, the trees almost do the opposite – they are so perfect as to render them real again. This is the real made artificial which is then presented as real and photographed as the artificial to make them real again.

Stephen Shore, Beverly Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, LosAngeles, CA, 21 June 1974

Stephen Shore, Beverly Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, LosAngeles, CA, 21 June 1974

The animals also, you start to notice, are a little too still. Their narratives or staging have no spontaneity to them. They are akin to the post-mortem photographs popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries for relatives wanting a last memento of their recently deceased. Spooky and just slightly or wonkily 'off', dead eyes with an eternal stare.

Cabinet card postmortem photograph of a deceased child. Recto and verso images shown. Beniamino Facchinelli (c. 1829 – c. 1897)

Cabinet card postmortem photograph of a deceased child. Recto and verso images shown. Beniamino Facchinelli (c. 1829 – c. 1897)

I remember being in Get Stuffed, that amazing taxidermy shop in Angel stuffed with tigers, panthers and other endangered animals (incidentally the proprietor was jailed in 2000 after an investigation into the dubious origins and legality of many of his rare specimens) and feeling all the animals eye’s fixed on me. The creepy nature of what had been done to them seemed to imbibe them with a strange magical spirit.

Interior of Get Stuffed, Islington by Fabio Venni [CC-BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr

Interior of Get Stuffed, Islington by Fabio Venni [CC-BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr

Once you know the animals in Sugimoto’s photographs are dead you do not want to be alone with them, it is like being locked in a museum alone at night – there is a completely irrational tension that everything will come back to life. Vengeful animals seeking revenge for their permanent state of living death, their House of Wax.

 “I made a curious discovery” says Sugimoto (again on his website) “the stuffed animals positioned before painted backdrops looked utterly fake, yet by taking a quick peek with one eye closed, all perspective vanished, and suddenly they looked very real. I'd found a way to see the world as a camera does. However fake the subject, once photographed, it's as good as real”

'Hiroshi Sugimoto: Still Life' will be on view at PACE, 6 Burlington Gardens until 24 January 2015

Sugimoto will be part of the upcoming Barbican exhibition 'Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist As Collector' which opens on 12 February.

                  www.pacegallery.com/london        /               www.sugimotohiroshi.com

Posted
AuthorSacha Waldron

Since 2010, photographer and human geographer Mike Harvey has been documenting the transient and often intimate relationships he has with his taxi passengers driving around the streets of Neath, between Port Talbot and Swansea in Wales.

“I wanted to document the lottery of people that occupied the taxi space and the experiences that taxi driving gave me” says Harvey “Whether it be rushing a pregnant woman to hospital or being regaled stories of World War II by an elderly passenger, the taxi provided a space to meet, converse with, and learn from people.”

TAXI FARE £2.87

TAXI FARE £2.87

“The array of people that journeyed in the taxi were diverse. The shop and call centre workers, tradesmen, policemen, pensioners, prostitutes and lawyers, the publican, millionaire, undertaker and pauper, the school teacher, drug dealer, drunkard and postman - the old, the young, the rich, the poor, the sober and the high”

For Harvey, these passengers represented a small cross-section of society and also of Welsh culture. The resulting images in the TAXI series also drew on Harvey’s background as a geographer with issues of community, urban identity, consumerism and sustainability of societies all coming into play.

TAXI FARE £13.90

TAXI FARE £13.90

Harvey would store his DSLR in the glovebox and, if during the ride driver and passenger had built a rapport, take it out when they had reached their destination and ask to take a photograph, waiving the taxi fare as a thank you if the passenger agreed. The subjects are not classically ‘posed’ but asked to look as natural as possible with some passengers choosing to look away or rummage in their bag during the process. The results are fleeting moments of acceptance or even collaboration in the process, rather than predatory on the side of Harvey and they show the brief relationship that has been built up between driver and passenger.

“I took around 130 photographs in total over a 6-month period” he says of the black and white images that are all taken simply with the indoor car lights and D5000 flash “I made sure that I used the same taxi in every photograph and it always had to be a shot from the front to the passengers in the back – for consistency of representing the space and the people occupying it. In a way they photos are my view from the rear-view mirror”

TAXI FARE £7.63

TAXI FARE £7.63

There are other reasons for sticking to black and white for this series. Harvey was born colour blind and gravitates towards either bold colours or black and white which he can see better. “Secondly” he sayd “the back of the taxi I used had yellow seats, which were an excellent feature (in keeping with the black and yellow cabbie colours), but tended to overpower the image when in colour, and detract from looking at the people in them”

 

TAXI FARE £4.00.jpg

Harvey used the cab to fund his travels to places such as Brazil, China, Egypt, India and Nepal, working for a few months in Wales before setting off again. “It was very interesting going to, say, Delhi with the scope of life in that thriving metropolis, all of its layers, and then seeing something similar in my cab in Neath” says Harvey “When I travel, I hope to take photographs that get under the superficial tourist façade, and that is what inspired me to take pictures in the taxi – to reveal the real community behind the assumptions”

TAXI FARE £3.06

TAXI FARE £3.06

The images were never the whole point for Harvey. “As a taxi driver, people would divulge aspects of their lives to me that they probably wouldn’t volunteer to any other complete stranger. The safety of the taxi space, and the knowledge that they may never see me again, encouraged people to open up. People would talk candidly about the things going well in their lives – their careers, relationships, weddings and such. But they would also impart information about things that weren’t going right – experiences of depression, break-ups, and even the contemplation of suicide. I always felt a strong responsibility to help these people just by listening, and carefully suggesting things that might encourage them to take a different view. In many ways this led to my role as driver gaining aspects of counselor, but I was always careful about what I said, as I think that sometimes the best advice is no advice – it can all be loaded with our own hopes, dreams and fears”

TAXI FARE £4.66

TAXI FARE £4.66

TAXI is currently being exhibited in Wales and Harvey is working on several new projects both in Wales and further afield. You can find out more about the TAXI project here:

www.mikeharvey.co.uk

Posted
AuthorSacha Waldron