02 May 2014 - 27 Jun 2014
Late in his career, the renowned photographer and gallerist Alfred Stieglitz created a series of photographs of clouds that he called 'Equivalents'. This series presented his photographs as visual metaphors for his emotional state at the time he made the photographs – "I have a vision of life and I try to find equivalents for it." His concept was later developed by the famous photographer and teacher Minor White and remains at the core of a particular strand of contemporary (mainly american large-format landscape) photography.
The work of Miyako Narita takes the concept of equivalents in an entirely new direction. Just as in the card game 'Snap' similar cards are paired together, Miyako Narita makes photographs that pair experiences from her past with events in contemporary her life that remind her, either emotionally or intellectually, of these previous experiences. Sometimes this linking to a memory is clear and easily traced through the image. Other times, however, the connection is felt but eludes explanation. We are not talking here of the classical 'decisive moment' of Henri Cartier-Bresson but more from the concept developed by Geoff Dyer in his International Centre of Photography Infinity Award's winning book "The Ongoing Moment" where the author addressed the idea of recurring elements in contemporary photography.
This constant pairing of experiences divided by time is the result of her ceaseless (some might say compulsive) recording of the various mundane things or actions that she encounters in her daily life. It is almost as if Miyako Narita has taken the Shinto religion's requirement that people establish a connection between present day Japan and its ancient past and internalised it within herself. Through her practice her past constantly informs her experience of the present.
As an artist, Miyako Narita establishes no rules in her practice. Her photography starts each morning at home and continues relentlessly throughout the day wherever she is and whenever something stimulates this recognition of something of an experience or feeling from the past. A single day can result in more than two hundred photographs and, to date, she has accumulated many thousands of images. Each photograph 'seizes' these events and creates a fragmentary record of her everyday life.
For this exhibition, Miyako Narita has taken the pairing of earlier experiences with contemporary events in a different direction. She has created sets of images (normally pairs) made at different times and in different locations with the aim of establishing a chance relationship, be it formal, emotional or intellectual. Although each photograph maintains an individual and independent identity, the combination of these images creates a dialogue between the images that suggest new interpretations. Viewing the images, I find myself questioning whether the interplay between the images reveals, perhaps, a common past experience that stimulated Miyako Narita to pair the photographs together or whether the pairing actually reveals an artist constantly restructuring the burgeoning and fragmentary record of her life and related memories in a particular photographic form.
D.S. Allen, Berlin, 2011.