“Rasen Kaigan” by Lieko Shiga published by AKAAKA Art Publishing

“Rasen Kaigan” was included in many best of 2013 photobooks lists and rightly so – it is a stunning book. The photos taken are of the Kitakama region of Japan which was worst hit by the 2011 tsunami. Leiko Shiga is the resident photographer for the area and also recorder of its oral history.

The first few images of the book set the tone of other worldliness. High contrast shot of an extraterrestrial rock and martian sunset or dawn. You’re unsure as to whether you are on a different planet or some parallel universe. The landscape is familiar but altered in some way like the photographs themselves. An alien fish eye stares at you as you move through the images.

You pick up clues along the way that it has something to do with the passing of time. Images of tree rings are juxtaposed with images of youth and age. The flow is interrupted two thirds of the way through by a double black page spread. We are back at the beginning with images of an excavation site, antique photographs and another series of high contrast rocks. The eye of an old woman stares at you.

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Art As Therapy

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As with all de Botton books there’s always the compulsion to read it from cover to cover without stopping. Will do a detail review later but here’s a quote for now:

Art can save us time – and save our lives – through opportune and visceral reminders of balance and goodness that we should never presume we know enough about already