19 October 2008

October ’08: Koichiro Kurita

Posted by estelle under: Interviews .

Koirchiro Kurita’s photography stems from the writings of Thoreau which he describes as, “a reminiscence of Zuangzi’s philosophy and so close to the oriental way of understanding nature.”  His connection with nature through his study of perceptual psychology has been central to his work.  Kurita works primarily with an 8×10 view camera, implementing an alternative printing process by hand coating large format platinum prints on handmade Gampi vellum.

Koirchiro Kurita is currently exhibiting his work at Project Basho, and is also offering a Gallery Lecture with Stuart Rome.  For more information on Koirchiro Kurita, please visit his website.

How long have you been working in photography and where did you study?

I have been working for forty years in photography.  I studied perceptual psychology and I devoted myself to the research of visual perception.  I studied how the human could visually perceive movement and I used a camera for my research.  This is when I learned photography- it was completely self-educated.  After I graduated from University, I later on became a photography assistant.  That was my opportunity for learning the professional photography industry.

What equipment do you use and what is your process?

I used an 8×10″ view camera and my photographic process is platinum printing.

What in particular do you enjoy about the platinum print process and working with hand made Japanese paper?

Alfreid Stieglitz used Japanese paper for photogravure and once referred to  platinum printing as “The Prince of Media”.  I, however, wanted to use historical Japanese Gampi paper (called “King of Paper” in Japan) for platinum printing.

You originally worked in the commercial photography, when did you switch to working in the fine art world and why?

When I was forty years old, I encountered Henry D. Thoreau’s “Walden”.  I wanted to photograph landscapes as fine art which I had never pursued as a commercial photographer.

What caused you to move to the United States after living in Japan for 50 years?

During my stay in New York City as a grantee of Asian Cultural Council Grants (can be compared to a Rockefeller Grant), I had the chance to have a solo exhibition at a gallery in the area.  This was my new beginning to work as fine art photography in New York City, and it was a huge difference compared to Japan.  The length of time I had spent in Japan did not matter.

What major differences do you see between the fine art photography world in the United States and Japan?

At that time, there were only two or three fine art photography galleries in Tokyo.

Tell us what draws you to photographing landscapes and the connection you feel to the natural world.

Things in nature are schooled in the rules of the natural world (natural law).  To understand the balance of energy,  we share their existence wisely by preserving the harmony of the whole.  Whether it is for the lively spring green leaves, the dried withered leaves or grass, my photographs are meant to pay respect to their wisdom and beauty.

In your statement for the series Terrasphere, Hydrosphere, Atmostphere, you say that “The world of Nature embraces Atmosphere, Terrasphere and Hydrosphere (Air, Ground and Water).  Each surface has a connecting border in a mysterior way.”  In what way are you attempting to solve this mystery?

Those expanses, all the things and phenomena including living things like us, exist in time as independent entities.  Though each entity is independent, they never exist alone.  They share the border with other entities and with other spheres.  To recognize the independence of each and all entities, the connection is not in conflict but rather in a state of order and harmony.  Each connection contributes to a harmony of nature as a whole.  My work is the expression of the connection between myself and Nature.  It is also a record of the connection of the things photographed.  Since we are so conditioned to think in words and communicate with each other in words, we seem to neglect our innate ability to use our senses.  This “connection” in Nature is nothing but wordless communication.  Interestingly enough,  photography itself is also a form of communication without words.

Your approach to photography seems poetic and philosophical.  What books, authors, or artists do you find inspirational and how has that inspiration influenced your work?

Edward Weston, Paul Strand, Minor White.  But I am much more influenced by great people who are dedicated in other fields, not necessarily just photography.  Examples are Zhuang Zi, Kinji Imanishi and Henry D. Thoreau.

I was especially influenced by Henry D. Thoreau.  I realized that Thoreau’s vision was reminiscent of the philosophy of Zhuang Zi and it echoed the Oriental way of understanding nature.  The only difference is that Thoreau’s way of thinking was absolutely free from everything.  That was very inspiring and influential for my photography.

Where are some of the locations you photograph?

I don’t specify the location at all.  I go where ever it reminds me of a place I have seen or have been to before.  I think almost no one can tell the specific location where I’ve gone to shoot, and I think it is unnecessary to know.  The important thing is how we communicate with nature and the metaphor I have in mind.

How does the location influence your photographs?

I like to take pictures in areas that have water and plants.  I do not like to photograph places that are too controlled by artificial things.

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

I want to continue to concentrate on human-touched creations in our digital era.  I am currently preparing for my next project.

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