Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Restoration Will ( part 2 )

A photobook review.
The Restoration Will is a photobook by Mayumi Suzuki originally released as a limited edition of 87 copies handmade by the artist in association with RPS in Tokyo. A new revised hand assembled edition of 450 copies has just been published in Italy by Ceiba Editions.
Mayumi was born and brought up in Onagawa, Miyagi prefecture Japan. Her father ran a photo studio from their family home.
Onagawa was severely damaged in the tsunami that occurred in March 2011 and Mayumi’s parents have been missing ever since.
The new Ceiba Editions version with "Obi" band.

Part 2
Reading the book 
This is a summary of the new edition published by Ceiba in Italy.
Please click on the images to view in full detail.

For this new edition once the Obi band is removed the title and artist name are only written on the spine leaving the front cover free of text. The front and back covers are bound with textured blue paper dotted with coloured flecks. Perhaps a representation of the binding on Mayumi's father's portfolio? but the deep blue cover also echoes the sparkling algae from the central fold out or even simply the idea of the vast blue ocean which plays a large part in this story.
Inset on the front cover "floating in the blue" is a small damaged photograph; you can just make out a child wearing some red clothes, seemingly on a street somewhere in Japan as Japanese text can be seen on a building at the end of the road. Two thirds of the image is not visible, it is somehow damaged and bleached white.
Inside the cover the title page contains a tiny illustration depicting a building, perhaps this was a logo for the family portrait business? As you turn to the first page a photograph of the same building is revealed with three girls posing on the street in the foreground.

Turn another page and we are introduced to the town of Onagawa seen as an elevated view in a full bleed double page spread. The photograph is in colour, the sky and sea are blue, and the mountain in the background is forested and green. Between the sea and the mountain the town buildings seem crammed into the low lying area; clearly this is a busy harbour town. However there is a date on the photo; 2006, five years before the huge tsunami of March 2011 tore into the bay destroying almost all of the buildings we can see in this photograph.  The photo was taken by Mayumi's Father from a vantage point on a hillside where a flight of stone steps climbed to one of the town's shrines.
Over the next four pages we are introduced further to the views of Onagawa and to the members of Mayumi's family and their home and studio via her father’s photos. These images are all in colour, classic family snapshots.

Suddenly we turn the next page and everything has gone dark, a murky, inky black and white image fills a double page spread. It seems to depict some fishing boats moored in the harbour.
Part of the page folds out as a flap revealing a small section of text in both English and Japanese. We are reading a telephone conversation between Mayumi and her parents, it's March 9th 2011, there has been a reasonably large earthquake and Mayumi is checking her parents are okay. They are joking with her about what happened that day, and then we read the final haunting line on the page, this was the last time Mayumi ever spoke to her Mother and Father.

Just two days later the huge earthquake and tsunami struck the North East coast of Japan and Onagawa was right in the centre of the worst hit area.
Over the next few pages we see more ink black shadowy images; fishing boats, roaring waves, hillside track ways and then scenes of total destruction. Under more folding flaps amongst this darkness more text explains Mayumi's desperate attempts to contact her parents on March 11th and then a conversation with her sister where they start to realise their parents may not have survived.

Suddenly we are back to colour, post tsunami, viewing Mayumi's photographs of the rubble near her family home. We can recognise that part of the photography studio is still standing from a distinctive section of tiled wall clearly visible in the opening image of the book. We turn the page and open some fold-outs to find ourselves inside the ruined darkroom with loose power cables and developing equipment strewn around amongst the debris.
Next we see the destroyed area of town where the studio stood in a wider shot; there is a small flap on the page, under this the inset image of a dusty camera lens. Mayumi found her Father's lens lying in the rubble, perhaps in the spot depicted on the flap? She recovered the damaged lens and decided to try to use it to take some pictures for this project.

The next section of the book depicts photographs recovered from the rubble and mud by a team of volunteers and later reclaimed by Mayumi.
First we open a flap to reveal a smaller separate hand bound blue booklet inserted beneath. Upon lifting it out we find its cover and pages are wrinkled as though damaged by water. Below the booklet we see a portrait on the page, a smartly dressed man wearing a suit and tie, a politician maybe? In fact he was a carpenter and boat builder posing for Mayumi's father. The blue wrinkled booklet represents a portfolio of these portraits that was recovered from the rubble, water damaged but full of memories for Mayumi. As a student she had in fact helped her father print the portraits in the same family darkroom we saw ruined on a previous page.

Returning to the main book we next see some damaged family snaps similar to the one on the front cover with the white bleached areas forming random patterns across the images. Then the inky black pages return with their ghostly views echoing the scars on the family snaps.

By the centre of the book we have returned to the ocean and a faint blue glow appears in the inky blackness. Pages fold out and then fold out again to give a six page spread, it's the ocean at night, mostly black but certain waves are glowing blue with luminescent algae. Superimposed on these waves are translucent images of Mayumi's mother and father their spirits floating somewhere in the vast ocean. Such a beautiful image that really packs an emotional punch as the reality of Mayumi’s story hits home. Her parents vanished in the tsunami and have never been found.

Now the pages have turned almost completely black, shadowy images of light creeping through tree branches, reflections on water, rocks and islands poking out from the sea all struggle to emerge from the darkness. These images were all taken by Mayumi with the lens recovered from the rubble. The shutter was damaged so needed to be opened and closed by hand thus Mayumi shot these photographs at dusk to be able to get any image at all. Eventually there are ghostly figures and spots of candle light within an image taken on the anniversary of the tsunami at dusk in the freezing cold. It's a gathering of family, friends and neighbours drinking coffee to warm the memory of loved ones still missing in the cold dark ocean.
Then the last black image is a flight of steps with their railings seeming to glow with light perhaps finally leading someone up out of the darkness into the future.

The book finishes where it began with a larger copy of the cover image, this time superimposed on a map of Onagawa and we see a relationship between the bleached scars on the photo and the topography of the town. There is one final flap to lift and underneath we see the same photograph restored, it's a young Mayumi wearing a red tunic being carried on her sisters back along the street in Onagawa. A restored photograph rescued from the mud and rubble reviving a memory of happier family times before the disaster.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Restoration Will ( Part 1 )

A photobook review.

"The Restoration Will" is a photobook by Mayumi Suzuki originally released as a limited edition of 87 copies handmade by the artist in association with RPS in Tokyo. A new revised hand assembled edition of 450 copies has just been published in Italy by Ceiba Editions.
Mayumi was born and brought up in Onagawa, Miyagi prefecture Japan. Her father ran a photo studio from their family home.
Onagawa was severely damaged in the tsunami that occurred in March 2011 and Mayumi’s parents have been missing ever since.

 Two editions of "The Restoration Will" by Mayumi Suzuki.

Part 1 
Photographs as memories and the Great East Japan Earthquake

To add a little background to one of the sources of images in "The Restoration Will" and illustrate some of the reasons why I think it's an important work I want to refer to two other photobooks by different artists.  
In the days, weeks and months that followed the huge earthquake and tsunami that struck the North East coast of Japan on March 11th 2011 two things occurred which overlap in all three of these works.  Firstly a number of Japanese artists felt compelled to create work based around the aftermath of the disaster. For some it was due to the shock of what they saw or out of a desire to highlight government failings and others were inspired because they were born or lived in the affected area. 
In addition schemes were set up to collect and salvage photographs , photo albums and similar items from the mud and rubble. These were cleaned and dried then held in public spaces for survivors or relatives of victims to collect.
Many people had lost everything they owned, their homes and their workplaces, others had lost loved ones, relatives and friends. If they could recover their photographs they would at least have some precious memories back.  
Many people including artists and photographers also felt the  need to volunteer to help survivors or assist the relief effort with some working in the photo cleaning and recovery process. 

The following pictures show two photobooks that document this process and give us an idea of the scale of the project. The first by Munemasa Takahashi ended up as a traveling art exhibition displaying recovered photos that were mostly too ruined to be reclaimed. The second by Masashi Asada and Satoshi Fujimoto documents the teams of volunteers in various locations .
Please click on the images  to view in more detail.

The photograph inset on the cover of The Restoration Will is one such photo recovered and cleaned by volunteers in Onagawa and reclaimed later by Mayumi Suzuki along with other family snap shots.
There are also a number of other recovered photographs within the book. 
Mayumi is a photographer who was born in Onagawa, her Father was a photographer in the town and their family home was also a photography studio. Mayumi's parents went missing in the tsunami and their home was destroyed.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Ozawa Shuzo Sake Brewery, Sawai, Tokyo .

I wanted to visit a sake brewery while in Japan, it seemed there were a couple of possibilities in the Tokyo area but the Ozawa Shuzo Brewery had the bonus of being located in a scenic river valley.
Taking the Chuo line and then the Ome line from Kichijoji station,  the city suburbs eventually thin out and a few mountains come into view as the train approaches Sawai station.
The Brewery is just a couple of minutes walk downhill from the station overlooking the Tama river.

The view from the opposite side of the river, the brewery is the white building in the lower left.

The tour and talk was in Japanese only but there was an English language leaflet .
The brewer is explaining the difference between rice used for sake and rice used for eating.

 Here different types of rice , milled rice and flour are on display

The entrance to a tunnel leading to the brewery water source, an underground spring.

Finally back in the lecture room a tasting of new season sake 

 Across the road from the main brewery overlooking the river is a spacious tasting area and bar,
where a full selection of the sake produced can be sampled at a reasonable price .

Just outside there is also a shop where bottles can be bought and a snack bar where hot food can be bought to eat on a riverside terrace.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A stroll around Yanaka March 2017 part 3

4th March 2017
A visit to Nezu Shrine.

After  enjoying hand dripped coffee and exploring some side streets near Yanaka Ginza it was only a short walk to reach the Nezu Shrine.
By this time the sun had come out, the sky was blue and everything was very bright. The shrine looked amazing in the sunlight so I decided to use a different camera. The Panasonic LX7 was not the best camera I was carrying and it struggles a little in the high contrast between shadow and bright light in the Japanese sunshine. However it is still pretty good and I chose to use it as it has a great 16:9 widescreen setting which captures the views within the shrine grounds more spectacularly. 
Nezu Shrine is supposedly one of the oldest in Japan and it is certainly very attractive now.
Legend suggests the shrine originated in the first century BC, founded by a "fearsome Prince" then moved a short distance to it's present location in the mid 17th century and apparently many of the current structures date back to  1706 when the shrine was rebuilt.

As always please click the photos once and then a second time to view in full quality.