reflets de lumière

Masahisa Fukase

Posted in Art, Photography, Print by B on May 1, 2010

Eromo Cape, 1976

Eromo Cape, 1976

Kanazawa, 1978

Kanazawa, 1978

Nayoro, 1976

Nayoro, 1976

Esashi, 1977

Esashi, 1977

Kanazawa, 1977

Kanazawa, 1977

The sheer desolation in Masahisa Fukase’s The Solitude of Ravens is almost unbearable. He gazes at ravens with the intensity and desperation of a man torn apart by grief. These devilish creatures fill the sky in the hundreds, their cold, beady eyes the only light he can see. Yet the longer he looks, the more empty he becomes. Enveloped in darkness, his gaze eventually becomes a blank stare. Shrouded in solitude, stuck in a meaningless, vacant gesture. What drove Fukase to such desperation?

Born in 1934, Fukase’s family owed a photographic studio in Bifuka-cho, Hokkaido. His first memory with photography was one of enmity; as a child he remembers staying indoors developing film and washing prints for his father, all the while wanting to go outside and play with his peers. His relationship with photography would grow in strength and complexity throughout his life, becoming a means of discovering and expressing himself.

After graduating from university with a degree in photography in 1956, Fukase moved in with a woman while working as a commercial photographer. He began to draw upon his personal life for artistic expression, photographing gritty oil refineries for his first solo exhibition, Seiyujo no Sora in 1960. The challenges he would face in his personal life proved to have a lasting impact on his work.

His partner suffered a miscarriage the following year and he began photographing slaughterhouses for Buta wo Korose in 1961. Her disappearance with their newborn child in 1962 caused serious emotional damage to Fukase. He continued to photograph slaughterhouses, traveling to a slaughterhouse in Shibaura daily to take photographs for a year after her disappearance. This ritual continued even after meeting his future wife Kannibe Yoko. He brought her there, contrasting the cold brutality of the slaughterhouse with the warm human presence of Yoko.

Fukase’s photographs of Yoko tell of the deep seated emotional change she had on his life. Published in 1978, the series of images Yoko show a wide range expression; from joyous and carefree, to sardonic and laced with subversive social commentary, to striking and powerfully suggestive. Yet underneath all this was a difficult relationship, described by Yoko as “suffocating dullness, interspersed by violent and near suicidal flashes of excitement.” Wanting to regain control over her own life, she left after thirteen years in 1976.

Fukase spiraled into depression, and during a journey back to his hometown in Hokkaido he began to photograph ravens as a projection of his feelings. The dark, grainy photos of The Solitude of Ravens are frightening in their depth, “a meditation on a past he tries to forget and his struggle with forgetting”. While he re-married and divorced, he never stopped mourning the loss of Yoko. And while he continued to develop his relationship with photography, his journey was abruptly cut short in 1992. While drinking at a favorite bar he fell down a flight of stairs, suffering severe brain damage. He remains comatose to this day.


Fukase, Masahisa. Karasu (鴉) / The Solitude of Ravens. Tokyo: Rat Hole, 2008. Print.

Warren, Lynne. Encyclopedia of Twentieth-century Photography. New York: Routledge, 2006. Print.


Masahisa Fukase (深瀬昌久)

Rat Hole Gallery

Akira Hasegawa

Nobuhiko Kitamura

Lynne Warren

Maki Fukuoka



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