It’s been 61 years since Domains, a book of photography by Ikko Narahara, was first published in 1956. The renowned Japanese photographer, known for his enigmatic and surreal black and white photography, is reaching towards 88 years of age in the coming months. Finding instant acclaim in the latter half of the 50s for a series of atmospheric landscapes known as Human Land, Ikko’s second exhibition Domains at the Fuji Photo Salon in 1958 cemented his place in the Japanese noir hall of fame.
Launching in June this year, a new edition of Domains features two separate photography series unified by Ikko’s signature haunted aesthetic. The first series Garden of Silence takes place in a Trappist monastery in Tobetsu, Hokkaidō while the second Within The Wall documents a women’s prison in Wakayama. Marking a new era of Japanese postwar photography, Ikko’s refreshing yet poignant style updated the monochrome medium for the contemporary age.
Noriko Tsutatani, chief curator of the Shimane Art Museum and lead researcher into Ikko’s works says on the importance of his photography: “Ikko Narahara, who attributed his personal technique of representation as ‘personal documents’, carved the path for a new era in the history of Japanese photography through means of an original and comprehensive perspective.”
Intrigued by the isolation of the monastery and the women’s prison, Ikko ventured to the introverted spaces to try and understand the way of life. At the monastery, Ikko captured the monks’ regimented daily routines. Encircled by stone walls, the monastery was separate from the rest of society and they lived in “ola et labour” meaning “prayer and work.” In the women’s prison, the inmates routines were similarly rigid. From the time they arose at half past six in the morning, to eight o’clock that evening, the womens lives were strictly scheduled into work and meals. While the monks chose to dedicate their lives to this routine, the women prisoners did not and Ikko draws out their similarities and differences in his beautiful imagery.
Published by Fukkan, which specialises in reviving old books, this new edition of the book sees photographs that have never been seen before in previous releases of Domains. The photographer’s archive goes on to tell It’s Nice That, “There are some unpublished images he wanted to include in this new book. The artist also thought there was room for improvement in the printing qualities of past books” and so, this new edition of Domains marks an important reemergence of Ikko’s esteemed works.
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