Fukase’s “Ravens”

The Japanese photographer Masehisa Fukase’s book of haunting photographs published as Karasu [Ravens] and published in English in the 1980’s as The Solitude of Ravens is getting renewed attention due to a British Journal of Photography award as the best photography book in the last 25 years. See Guardian announcement and photo gallery.

The book is long out of print and copies are very expensive. Guardian summary:

Brooding and shatteringly lonely, the Japanese photographer’s series on ravens has been hailed as a masterpiece of mourning

Fukase’s photographs of ravens in various grains of black and white evoke at once a sense of unease, repulsion, pity, and despair — as intended. The English translation adding the word and connotation of “solitude” attempts to capture the sense of alienation, strangeness, the status of pariah, outcast, of deformity and repulsion. It is almost unnecessary.

Elements of Japanese aesthetics, of wabi-sabi, can be identified, but the naturalism of the photographs becomes “unnatural” to most people’s sensibilities as otherwise comfortable onlookers. Both the art and psychology of the photographs are compelling in a new and different way than anything modernist.

Ravens are what they are but Fukase’s relentless lens inevitably provokes an analogy to human beings, to human society, to the ambivalence of real or contrived feelings of ugliness we all harbor. Solitude here is both the condition of ravens but also the result of our uneasiness.

Forthcoming film

Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer is a documentary film by Morris Chumley and John McGuckin scheduled for release in early 2011. A companion book published by HarperOne will be available. A trailer is available at the film website and clips are available on YouTube by searching under the user/contributor (see links below).

The authors’ summary of the film content:

Christian hermits, monks and nuns share their ancient prayers and inner wisdom for the first time on film. Never before has there been this kind of access to monasteries, caves and spiritual communities: from the Holy Lands of Egypt, to Mt. Sinai, Mt. Athos in Greece, Romania, Ukraine and Russia. Join Dr. Norris and Father John on an unforgettable journey of a lifetime.

URL of website: http://www.mysteriesofthejesusprayer.com/
URL of YouTube clips: http://www.youtube.com/user/thejesusmystery