Yojiro Imasaka: Trade Winds
September 13th – October 20th, 2018
Unfolding over the course of several stays on the island of O‘ahu, Yojiro Imasaka’s newest series, Trade Winds, captures a vision of Hawai‘i far removed from its postcard-perfect beaches. His photographs instead transport us to a pristine and seemingly untouched landscape, where the crispness of each leaf, frond, and branch is punctuated by moments of blurry focus, a result of the wind that inhabits the forest. These “trade winds” gently course through every corner of the island and drive its climate for the majority of the year – temperature, air quality, even ocean currents abide by their presence or absence. Imasaka reflects: “When I visit Hawai‘i and observe the coexistence of human development and everlasting nature, I start to wonder how the winds shaped the very islands and their history. I venture deeper and deeper into nature, searching for the original landscape of this land. Every time the wind touches me, my mind drifts with it back in time. Using my large format film camera and a slow shutter speed, I seek to capture the wind that has shaped the entire history of the island of O‘ahu.”
The natural environment in Imasaka’s work is nearly absent of the human footprint, with only the occasional glimpse of a dirt path and a few distinguishable varieties of flora marking any evidence of intervention (the coconut palm is not native to Hawai‘i, but it appears among the foliage). These subtle moments reveal the brevity of human memory set against a landscape in constant motion and incremental change.
Imasaka’s process is marked by a distance, both geographical and chronological, that fills the space between the moment the image is captured in film and the moment that image is revealed in the darkroom. For the artist, the darkroom process is “meditative,” forcing him to slow down his own pace of work to engage with the imagery he is unearthing. His alterations of color and saturation are a means of rekindling the elusive memory of a place. The recent chain of volcanic events on Hawai‘i Island echoes the artist’s sentiment: “Recently, while in my darkroom in New York City, I heard the news that a volcanic eruption in Hawai‘i had forced people to evacuate…I uttered to myself “History repeats itself”. Humankind and our existence account for so short a moment in natural history. It was here long before us, and it will be here long after us. And then I came to wonder: these photographs that I’m looking at right now, are they of the past, present, or future?”