Modern Classic

Central to my photographic work is the exploration of  culturalmemory. History repeatedly shows us how culture moves like an eternally flowing river. Although an element may seem to disappear, going unseen for generations, the energy contained in a cultural memory can find revival in future eras. Since antiquity, it has been the work of poets, musicians, artists and shamans sensitive to these cultural energies to revisit, to recite and to render them into stories, songs and images.

I am also exploring how memory is embedded in landscapes. Several years ago I had a conversation with the South African scientist and writer Lyall Watson about how the landscapes we all live in, and also the ones we journey through, are permeated with memories of the past. Memories of human activity, and memories of natural occurrences — remembrances that radiate from the rocks, trees and man-made structures. These memories, Watson and I agreed, actually can unwittingly influence our lives, connecting our present with the past and with the future. It is best that we be aware and work with them consciously.

I find a revival of old cultural energies in Japan today, a creative awakening among young people towards many traditional aspects of culture. The dynamic flow of this re-emergence is central to my portrait work. Nevertheless, in this contemporary era so much of cultural memory has gone underground, or seems to have been lost or destroyed. I am also seeking to address this cultural amnesia by digging deep into traditional Japanese cultural currents and retrieving emotive images from the subliminal darkness.

As a photographer, I have always been captivated by the challenge of recording on film the ambient mood of a place. To capture the non-visible on film may seem an impossible task, but through my encounter with the glass plate collodion photographic process I am, to my own aesthetic satisfaction, discovering techniques for achieving this. Adapting as well the techniques and materials of Japanese ceramic artists and classical painters, I have begun to successfully articulate wind, spirit, and memory in my imagery.

A note on the process:

The wet plate process, in conjunction with using handmade sumi inks, mineral pigments and antique washi paper (some more than one hundred years old), is for me like a culinary adventure. Although the wet plate collodion process was first invented in the 1850s, I do not use it to inspire nostalgia. It is for me a new medium, one that allows me to no longer be dependent upon digital or other mass-produced photographic products and techniques. I can now hand-choose all the materials and ingredients myself, whether they be light-sensitive mineral salts and other natural chemicals. I can then manipulate them in new ways that go beyond the traditional aims of photography. The glass plate negative and washi print become surface canvasses, to engage in a mixed media adventure, to explore the concepts central to my art.