Anders Edström chronicles the nuances of daily life, love plus loss

Reading Time: 5 minutes

His new 756-page story book explores the home life in a remote Japan village that may soon be gone

Inside 1992, Swedish photographer Anders Edstr ö m travelled to the remote Japanese village of Shiotani for the first time. Just below 30 miles outside Kyoto, the village is home to only 47 inhabitants. Unbeknownst in order to him then, Edstr ö m would return to Shiotani multiple times over the coming yrs, as it is where the photographer’s then-girlfriend, and now wife, grew up. Considering that initial visit nearly three decades ago, Edstr ö m has taken countless photographs of his companions, their family, and the town’s landscaping – saturated in the atmospheric hum of everyday life.

© Anders Edström

Anders Edström

“One of the visitors said, ’I can’t think your husband let you do that. ’ That’s when I got the realisation that this is truly a piece of work. Because that person straightaway is making an assumption of how I should behave as a good archetypal wife. And I thought, the piece of work goes outside of just me and the story. ”

When Edstr ö m first arrived in the particular village, he had been taking photos for seven years – his camera was an integral tool for relating to the planet around him. “It has been my way of being, ” he explains. “The first time I went to Shiotani, I just wanted to have memories of the journey. I don’t think that the photos I take when I visit any place for the first time are particularly interesting. I might get lucky – but when I see details for the first time, I don’t really know what in order to photograph, because everything brand new looks interesting. I haven’t developed a special point of view yet. ” ​​ Edstr ö m photographed as a means of constructing an internal chart and gaining an understanding associated with his surroundings, collecting the particular visual cues around him like a magpie, only to rifle through his frames upon completion. He composed personal references to sights, people, plus smells that would later install the foundation for an exquisite long-term project: Shiotani , a 756-page chronicle published by AKPE.

Edstr ö m’s personal journey into familiarity with this remote place is what makes Shiotani so compelling. Indeed, the work is a documentation of remote living, but it is also a historical record associated with Edstr ö m’s relationship to making photographic records, not just tracking his changes as an image-maker, but his throughlines, too. “When I initial started taking pictures, in 1986, I used a Nikon F. A couple of years later, while working as an assistant meant for commercial photographers, I used all kinds of cameras, including outdated ones I found at flea markets. I wanted to learn everything, looking for different effects, ” he explains.  

Anders Edström

Anders Edström

“But throughout 1991 and 1992, I seemed I had reached an inactive end, ” he continues. “I wasn’t excited about experimentation anymore. I felt trapped. The weird colours plus contrasts bored me, and when I looked back via all my rolls, I actually felt drawn to the first images We made back in 1986. They were so plain, catching the light of ordinary things close to me, photographed in a simple manner. It felt unattached, which was far more interesting than all those years of effort invested trying to make pictures seem interesting. I wanted to see merely could go back to that original way of seeing and doing, just by being myself. ” He decided to go back to their Nikon, “and it sensed so neutral – nothing too poetic. The pictures in Shiotani were made with exactly the same approach I had when I first started photographing seven years before. ”

In 06\, over a decade after their first visit, his wife’s obaachan Edstr ö m’s grandmother-in-law asked to see the pictures the lady had watched him taking over the years. Noting her interest, for Christmas two years later, he gifted her a photo album of choices. The creative process of building the personal memento shifted the photographer’s understanding of his mass documentation. Rather than keeping a good unseen archive of forgotten memories, Edstr ö mirielle realised he could share this place with others by means of a book.  

© Anders Edström

In the pages associated with Shiotani – full of silhouettes on paper doorways, the hot routine of family foods, or imperfect objects that caught Edstr ö m’s eyesight – we see how the particular photographer’s authorship, while seemingly nonchalant, is intentional. Because the years pass, he gets increasingly comfortable and well known in his body. While Edstr ö m might not be visible in the photographs, we feel his presence – not necessarily as a documentarian, but seeing that someone consistently rediscovering a place that is important to him. Edstr ö m’s return to simplicity in image-making is also shown in the book’s design. The beige cover and simple typography reflect the ordinary beauty of the photographer’s style.

“I have normally liked beige, ” he admits that. “I wanted the guide to be plain and simple, and I furthermore didn’t want to give away what goes on the inside. I wanted it to try and do the job of letting the reader go through the pages with while few distractions as possible. ”

At 756 pages, Shiotani is expansive in comparison to the majority of photobooks. It takes the viewers on a visual stream-of-consciousness that might suddenly feel slow and lethargic, only to rev as much as rapid speed with the convert of a page. The guide, which features images used between 1993 and 2015, feels like a narrative through Edstr ö m’s dreamworld – a supercut of the process of familiarisation.

“One of the things I like most about making books is playing with time, ” he points out. “I’m not interested in merely showing a collection of nice images. I want the sequence to provide you with some kind of feeling. It’s a bit like listening to a record: you might not like all the songs, yet even the songs that you do not like are important for experiencing the whole project. ”

© Anders Edström

© Anders Edström

While there is a subjectivity in Edstr ö m’s photos, imbued with personal statements of love and loss, the life and death associated with important family members, many of their themes contain universal comments. As time has passed and Shiotani evolves before their eyes, Edstr ö michael feels that sharing this place with others is important.

“This work is certainly personal, but my function is always personal, even when I am photographing pools of color, ” he reflects. “Photography is personal because we show each other the things that we find interesting to look at, presenting them in ways that reflect individuals feelings. Aside from thinking about the things i like about the images, I could only hope that other people find this work interesting, too. ”

Through the mesmerising simplicity of Shiotani , Edstr ö m demonstrates that, intended for him, home is a collaborative interaction with his camera. Despite the fact that his mass of pictures started as a snapshot pursuit – a way of making new surroundings feel increasingly familiar with the passage of time – the task is additionally about a place worth complex remembrance.

“This project is also about a death village, ” Edstr ö d reflects. “It is a record of a place that will not exist forever. Nothing actually does, and that’s why it’s interesting to photograph things in the first place: to see what the world utilized to look like, or to see a village from the inside. It is ordinary plus extraordinary at the same time. Shiotani is all about time, life and dying – and I just happened to be there to photograph it. ”

Cat Lachowskyj

Kitty Lachowskyj is a freelance writer, editor and researcher based in London. Prior to pursuing a career in writing, she trained being an archivist in Toronto, developing research on colonial photography albums at the Archive of recent Conflict. She has completed residencies and fellowships at the Memorial of Ontario, the Ryerson Image Centre and the Rijksmuseum, and her current analysis interests involve psychoanalytical methods to photography and archives. Cat’s writing has appeared in lots of publications including Unseen Magazine, The British Journal of Photography, Foam Magazine plus American Suburb X, and he or she has held editing functions at both Unseen Publication and LensCulture.

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