“When I consider Japanese forests, I am always distracted by Aokigahara and in doing so, I have to place our protagonist there amongst the Durkheimian realities that it ensues”.
It somehow seems pertinent to have left this title too long to review having been caught in the deluge of books landing on my desk in a velocity that no longer seems sustainable. And sustainability is what we should be speaking about as fires rage through the forests of the Amazon. The lungs as it were, observed by the eyes of the collective body prepared to choke on a negative feedback loop for the price of a better burger. It depends on how we spin it I guess, but one cannot feel a profound dislocation these days from the environment and our place within it.
“A culture that can instill the need for harmony and interdependence towards our natural environment within its people has the best chance for a sustainable future”
…reads the endpaper of Yuka & The Forest by Lena C. emery (APE) and if I discount that I’m reading this sentiment on paper in a book, I can genuinely feel the analysis, but whether we can assume that a “people” exists outside of globalism is an interesting question, discounting of course native tribal populations being wiped out of their Amazon homes as we speak. However, sometimes we can only gravitate towards sentiment in photography no matter the inconsistencies of its physical nature.
“Make no mistake, the images of the forest and Yuka are truly beautiful. I am reminded more of that image by Ed Van Der Eslken Vali in the Mirror with Striped Blouse for some reason”.
When I consider Japanese forests, I am always distracted by Aokigahara and in doing so, I have to place our protagonist here amongst the Durkheimian fantasies that ensue. Aokigahara, the Sea of Trees, the Suicide Forest is perhaps an aptly named metaphor for tuning into the purposeful burning of the world this month. Can one watch their suicide unfold from afar? And if I have misjudged Yuka, let me be clear that I understand her position within the passages of this book adorned her distance from it behind glass panes. The beauty of Emery’s images lies in the contradiction between Yuka in her home (presumably) and the forest at her door and perhaps this is more of a rousing sentiment than a celebration of natural terms. We find other unsustainable materials in the work besides glass such as wires and electricity towers and though this disruption is minimal, it reminds us, like the paper it is printed on that we are casualties of our own sentiment and contradictions, often.
In considering the metaphorical terms, it would be a shame to lose sight of the grandiosity of the images themselves. Make no mistake, the images of the forest and of Yuka are truly beautiful. I am reminded more and more of an image by Ed Van Der Eslken Vali in the Mirror with Striped Blouse for some reason. I am sure it is the glass, but also the narcissism involved in performing for the camera in such a sensual way broadcasting self and physicality by means of a simplified application towards technological means. Yuka performs well. She performs so well in fact, that we almost forget there are no pictures of her in the forest itself. Never the less this is the kind of work we associate with artists whose preferences for art, landscape and place are related at their core to a fashionable sensibility. This is not a problem. Often as is the case with Emery or perhaps Harley Weir’s investigation of Iran, we are given a look into a different method of claiming a veracity of artistic exchange from fashion to art and that is consciously upheld in this work and also in Weir’s. In allowing personal projects to bleed over from a vocation indebted to a genre like fashion, photography is able to pursue new results and the results are often worth the while as is the case with Yuka & The Forest. I am comfortable with the meditative landscapes and the cool portraits of the sitter no matter their indebtedness to fashion, 60’s portraiture or thoughts about environmentalism and somehow though I feel it should be expanded upon, the work is strong enough to deliver a synthesis between the categories I have already defined. Recommended.
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(All Rights Reserved. Text @ Brad Feuerhelm. Images @ Len C. Emery.)