Ravens by Masahisa Fukase
In Japanese mythology, ravens are disruptive presences and harbingers of dark and dangerous times – another reason, perhaps, why the photographer was drawn to them during his darkest hour.Sean O'Hagan
Ravens by Fukase is an haunting series of work made between 1975 and 1986 in the aftermath of a divorce and was apparently triggered by a mournful train journey to his hometown. The coastal landscapes of Hokkaido serve as the backdrop for his profoundly dark and impressionistic photographs of ominous flocks of crows. The work has been interpreted as an ominous allegory for postwar Japan.
“Ravens is one of the defining bodies of work in the history of photography and a high point in the photo book genre.
This accumulation of accolades, and the passing of time, have obscured much of the fascinating detail which explains the artist’s pre-occupation with this motif throughout his work.
It was not simply a reflection of the existential angst and anhedonia he suffered throughout his life but manifested in artistic self-identification with the raven and ultimately spiralled into a solitary existence and artistic practice on the edge of madness.
And all this before an untimely accident in 1992, a fall down the stairs of his favourite bar, resulted in him spending the final twenty years before his death with his consciousness suspended and in medical isolation. Fukase became the singular raven frozen by his camera and immortalized on the cover of his most famous book.”
Tomo Kosuga from his essay Cries of Solitude