Entering the "two-dimensional world"
text  Hiroshige Iwakawa, Kyodo News 

This story may sound a bit banal, but I have a recollection of something that happened when I saw one of Monet’s “Water Lilies” at the Musée d’Orangery in Paris. To have a good look (and to get my money’s worth), I took my time in observing it both close up and from a distance. In the process of doing this, I was amazed when the painting suddenly transformed.

When I stood at a certain distance, the picture lost its sense of perspective. The sunrays and light on the water lilies, leaves, and water surface lost their outlines, and the entire painting looked like nothing more than a blurry pattern. We were seeing water lilies because of its title. But I wondered what we would perceive if we saw it for the first time in our lives without any preconceived notions. In fact, the artist may have wanted to recreate this image on canvas, a pattern that had lost its meaning when captured on the retina. I was reminded of this episode when I first saw GOTO AKI’s photos.

For example, there is something like a grass field, a photo of clumps of dry grass scattered upon desolate land. One photo instantly loses its meaning to the viewer. It gives the sensation of stroking a kimono with an austere “komon” pattern.

The works in the photobook “terra” are what we call “landscape photographs” of certain places, but their locations are not immediately indicated. One looks like a magnified photo of cedar pollen, but is apparently a reflection of sunlight on rippling water. Another seems to be the eggs of male bodied animals or something crowded together, but with a closer look could be white stones at the bottom of the river. There was another photo that I assumed to be the surface of Mars or Jupiter, but looking at the credits at the end of the book, it turned out to be the crater of Mt. Fuji. I never thought it would be so comforting to see a landscape lost in perspective and transposed into two-dimension. It’s truly an eye-opening experience.

I was amazed at the photographer’s words: “When I look at an object, I see it as if my eyes were equipped with a camera and lens, translating three-dimension into a plane. I also picture the shutter speed and exposure compensation in my mind to gauge how a photograph would capture it.” What he tries to capture is not the familiar landscape, but the light, wind, colors, sounds, smells, and time that constitute it.
“It was only a few years ago that I realized that I wanted to capture the elements rather than the entirety.” These don’t show in the photos. But this is what sets professional photographers apart, in this day and age when the world is abound with images.
Many of the locations are at volcanos, such as Mt. Fuji, Mt. Osore, and Mt. Aso. The Japanese archipelago, where several plates have fallen, has the most intense metabolism of all the earth’s surface layers. GOTO is dealing with something that changes rapidly amid the cosmic flow of time.

“My photos happen to focus on Japan because I was born and raised here, but I have an instinctive sense of the scale of the earth from my experiences in traveling around the world when I was a student. I look at Japan from a bird’s-eye view, and yes, I can say that I am shooting ‘portraits of the earth.’”

Portraits of the Earth. What a captivating phrase. Sometimes zooming out, sometimes zooming in, sometimes overviewing, sometimes closing in and admiring the surface as if caressing it. Indeed, you can profoundly sense a love of the earth more than anything else in these photos. Although my words may sound a bit banal.
26th Mar, 2019