Japanese photographer Koichiro Kurita graduated from Kwansei Gakuin University in Kobe, where he studied perceptual psychology, using a camera extensively to stimulate the function of the eye in his research that examined how people view moving objects under changing circumstances. He worked as a young man for a Tokyo advertising agency before becoming a successful independent photographer and director of commercials. But at the age of forty, moved by his reading of Walden by the American philosopher Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862), Kurita moved away from his lucrative career in the city in order to fully direct his photography toward meditative expressions of his connection to the rural world.
In order to concentrate on large-format landscape photography, Kurita retreated to a studio in the Yatsugatake Mountains a hundred miles northwest of Tokyo, where, he writes, “the feeling was Walden.” After obtaining a grant from the Asian Cultural Council created by John D. Rockefeller III to encourage international dialogue between Asian and American artists and scholars, he was able to travel and photograph in Canada, the United States, and Great Britain.
Since 1993 Kurita has maintained studios in New York and Massachusetts, focusing his impressions of the natural world – quiet New England woodlands, remote Boundary Waters lakes and rocks of Minnesota and Canada, or natural features of California – by extracting poetic details from the greater landscape. He uses nineteenth century photographic printing processes to create monochromatic prints. His handmade platinum palladium, albumen, and salt prints on paper made from the Japanese gampi tree have enhanced the delicacy and subtle resonance of his images, linking historical yet timeless qualities with his contemporary vision.
His photographs have been widely collected and exhibited both in galleries and museums around the world, including the Bibliotheque National, Paris, the George Eastman House, New York, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Yamanashi Prefecture Art Museum, Kofu, Japan.
Kurita's medium of platinum palladium print
For these my photographs, I chose traditional platinum /palladium printing process with archival handmade gampi paper for a harmony of idea and form. There are three reasons to use gampi paper. The first, I have seen Steiglitz’s photogravure using Japanese paper long time ago and I was amazed at his sensibility. The second, the paper has been used for historical documents since 1400’s in Japan. It perfectly endures in the Japanese museum. Lastly, as a nature photographer, I am concerned about environment. The gampi paper is used only tree’s surface without cutting down the tree. I took on the challenge to use gampi paper for hand coating photographs and collaborated with a paper maker. The resulting, gampi is the finest for my photographs.
Terrasphere - "Chi"
Hydrosphere - "Sui"
Atmosphere - "Ki"
About nature and “Chi Sui Ki” – (1986 ~ 2006)
I had a fateful encounter with a book when I was a commercial photographer. It was Thoreau’s “Walden”. I was moved and inspired by its insightful, independent thinking and by the absolute freedom of his spirit unconstrained by society’s rules and his ability to enjoy harmony with nature. It was reminiscent of Chuang-Tzu’s philosophy and very close to the Oriental way of understanding nature. --- This was the start of my photography as art.
The world of Nature embraces Terrasphere, Hydrosphere and Atmosphere, (Ground, Water and Air—Chi Sui Ki). Each surface and their borders connect in a subtle and mysterious way. These phenomena, including all things and all living things like us exist in time both as independent and co-dependent entities. They all share borders with each other and with other spheres. To recognize all relationships, we understand that the connections are not in conflict but rather in a state of order and harmony. Each connection contributes to a harmony of Nature as a whole.
My work is the expression of these mysterious junctures and an exploration of the connections between myself and nature. Loving nature doesn't mean to scrutinize or analyze examples, but to make contact with nature instinctively, with sense and emotion, for the sake of its beauty. Interestingly, the photography itself is also a form of communication without words.
"Perceiving" - (2003 - 2013)
The idea of "Perceiving" was inspired by my study in Japan of perceptual psychology. "How the human being sees and perceives," was my study within the scientific approach. Since becoming a photographer, I wanted to photograph the connection between my mind and visual perception - "What I see and perceive" rather than isolated artistic vision. Perceiving is for each human being a connection between time and mind.
An important point in photography to me is where to place the camera. The placement of the camera is not merely a physical position, it is also a psychological position. In this work, I aim to create a link between psychological comprehension and my philosophy of nature, which ties perception inextricably with object, which then relates to my photographs. I photographed nature with multiply composed sequences using 8x10" format camera. As a result, the final image (composed of multiple images) is a condensation. Each focused visual area, without emphasis of perspective and distortion, is more than a single photograph that I could take in just one exposure using super wide lens. These photographs look natural, however the images depict an experience seen in the camera — it represents the process of “seeing photographically.”