36 images (2016)
The early 20th century industrialist Sankei Hara made his fortune by putting silk stockings on the legs of women all over the world. With his new wealth he became a patron of the arts. He loved to entertain and sponsor artists at his estate in Yokohama. His tea events and cultural salons were the talk of day. He even hosted the great Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore at his estate for several months. In 2015 the Hara estate commissioned me to create this series of images to commemorate the cultural legacy of Sankei Hara.
I wanted to photograph flowers in the old villas and teahouses on the estate. This was a way to bring new life into the dusky rooms. To help me with this project I asked the 21st generation grand master of Ikebana flower arranging, Soccho Fujiwara to collaborate with me. Her flowers are of a classical style and yet there is something very modern about how she creates ambience. This is the mark of a master and this is why I wanted her to work with me for a year on the estate.
Our collaboration became the start of "a salon that transcends time." As we made flowers and images throughout the year all over the estate, we would often feel the aura of Sankei Hara's ghost looking over our shoulder. He would sometimes suggest we choose a different angle or place to put Soccho's flowers. The exposures in the dark rooms were often more than fifteen minutes, during which time all of our staff left the room where the photograph was being made. We left too, so that no human presence would disturb the atmosphere of the images. The photographs were in effect made without any photographer being present during the long exposures.
Iemoto (家元） is a term used to refer to the grand master of a school of traditional Japanese art. Soccho Fujiwara is the Iemoto of the Kajii-nomiya-goryu school of flower arrangement. For 21 generations her lineage has provided flowers in the grand rooms of Kyoto's Sanzen-in temple. In Japan the schools of traditional arts are now in dramatic transition with the rapid changes in people's cultural interests. In the near future , many of these traditional schools may no longer continue to exist. If they do continue they will radically change their ways of doing things. Customs that have continued for generations will change and disappear.
This collaboration project is a dialogue with history, tradition and change. It is an attempt to breathe air into a tradition, so that it may thrive in the future. Looking at these images from the perspective of one hundred years from now, the flower styles presented may no longer exist. Only the images may remain.
This project was made possible through the generosity of the Sankeien Hoshokaii Foundation.
Image size 10.24" x 10.24" (260 x260mm),
Paper size 13" x 12.5" (330 x 320mm)
Edition of 09