Saturday, September 28, 2013

Bringing the Jomon Era to Life

Jomon Era artifacts are easy to find but not always easy to appreciate. This photography brings them to life. Here is what The Japan Times online edition reports about Jomon Era artifact photographer Tadahiro Ogawa: Camera artist casts new light on Jomon millennia by Edan Corkill Staff Writer Sep 28, 2013 The Jomon Period of Japanese history is so shrouded in the mists of time that any bid to fathom its secrets stretches even the usual astonishing bounds of prehistoric archeology. Yet as amateurs and experts alike have continued unearthing and studying 2,000- to 10,000-year-old examples of Jomon pottery and stone tools for more than a century, the pieces of the puzzle are gradually coming together. It is only six years ago, for instance, that the discovery of unusually large beans — or the holes where they had been encased in the clay of Jomon Period pots — provided concrete evidence that people living in these islands so very long ago had been able to domesticate certain plant species. Such new understandings, of course, normally come courtesy of archeology and science. But there has been another endeavor that has helped bring into focus those mysterious times: photography. Indeed, for the last 30 years Tadahiro Ogawa is one who has dedicated himself to photographing Jomon Period artifacts — and to date he has around 30,000 of them in his picture archive. In fact the Tokyo resident has photographed at pretty much every one of the more than 500 museums nationwide that stocks objects from the Jomon Period — which is conventionally dated at from around 12,000 B.C. to 300 B.C. And due to his policy of granting free use of his photographs to the institutions with which he collaborates, Ogawa’s work has become ubiquitous in the field, adorning the covers of countless books, posters, bags and academic studies — and, in one case at least, even a local phone book. Judging from the evidence to hand, it seems that few of those museums are fastidious about crediting their unpaid photographer, but it is nevertheless easy to identify his handiwork. For starters, Ogawa’s photographs of ancient Jomon clay objects depict vivid and dramatic topographies of shade, shadow, highlights and depth. Where archeological documentation of such finds tends to prioritize even, flat lighting, Ogawa manages to capture in his shots such texture and physicality that it’s as if they are there in the room with you — objects you could reach out and touch and feel. Effortlessly, his images transport you back to a time when such objects were an everyday presence — when they were real rather than being revered antiquities.