The Solitude of Ravens

Noboribetsu, 1979
Kanazawa, 1977
Nayoro, 1977
Wakkanai, 1975
Masahisa Fukase, The Solitude of Ravens

A panel of photographers and writers was recently invited by the British Journal of Photography to select their favorite photo book in the last 25 years, and the winner is a little known work from 1986 by the Japanese photographer Masahisa Fukase, entitled Karasu (Ravens). Published in the west under the title The Solitude of Ravens, the book is a testament of mourning, a 10-year obsession that began when his wife of 13 years decided to leave Fukase, after a life which she described as moments of "suffocating dullness interspersed by violent and near suicidal flashes of excitement." She had also been the focus of his camera lens, and the loss was intolerable. "I work and photograph while hoping to stop everything," he once said. Suffering bouts of depression, Fukase was never able to dispel the darkness that he made so evident in his work. Tragically, five years after the publication of the book, Fukase fell down a flight of stairs in a bar and has been in a coma ever since. The Solitude of Ravens brings to my mind what Rainier Maria Rilke wrote in his Letters to a Young Poet, "Works of art are an infinite loneliness... Only love can grasp and hold and fairly judge them." Today, as he lies insensate to all signs of life and the honor bestowed upon his work, his former wife, who has since remarried, still visits him twice a month.

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