These days everyone thinks they’re a photographer. It’s a rare treat to see professional photography that’s more of an art form than a random selection of snaps. This is one of a number of reasons why British photographer Emily Allchurch’s forthcoming exhibition, at Diemar Noble Photograpy from 17th March until 7th May, is a must.
Tokyo Story is Allchurch’s homage to Hiroshige’s last great work, One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (1856-58). In her masterly collection, Allchurch recreates ten of the artist’s exquisite prints, skillfully employing contemporary digital imagery to embrace the spirit of the original compositions.
(Click on the images once to enlarge and twice to see more detail).
The two dimensional nature of ancient woodblock printing is brought to life via the expert addition of modern day reality, with the help of virtual tools from the ‘internet age’. Layer upon layer of detail are subtly blended to reflect stories of unsettling social change. Of course, at the time of Hiroshige’s work, traditional Japan was under threat from Western Imperialism, whereas today Japanese technology permeates the world…
Current day cultural references range from basketballs, beer cans and vending machines to graffiti, logos…and catfish (an indication that Japanese culture, whilst embracing Western products and ideas, still retains its own distinct character). The underlying narrative also conveys deeper concerns over the effects of social transformation – the aging population, homelessness, environmental issues and unemployment. A tramp is seen pulling his cart of belongings, as beer cans float on polluted rivers and banners of commercialism punctuate the overcrowded skyline.
Allchurch is remarkably respectful towards the original work, and details that may seem a little on the quirky side are actually in keeping with the themes raised by Hiroshige: The addition of a rollercoaster to a temple setting, for instance, relates to the fact that temples were formerly places of entertainment, and continue to be a major tourist destination. She also captures the artist’s vibrant visual style and use of ‘bokashi’, the luminous cross-fading effects created through the graduated wiping of the ink on the printing blocks.
Emily’s accomplished portraits of today’s Tokyo serve as a timely update of Japanese art history for future generations.