Beyond Spheres Project and the Bicentennial of Thoreau’s Birth

Koichiro Kurita’s work from the project Beyond Spheres will be exhibited at the Griffin Museum of Photography, Winchester, MA from April 6 through May 28, 2017. The photographs in this show explore in visual form Thoreau’s reflections on the timeless relationship that exists between man and nature and serve as Kurita’s answer to the question, “What if Thoreau had been a photographer?”

"Thoreau's Cove" Walden pond, MA 2016 Albumen print from calotype paper negatives

About the project: “What If Thoreau Had Been a Photographer?”

Kurita launched the Beyond Spheres project in 2010 as a logical extension of his search for an answer to this question. The aim of the project was, and is, to give pictorial form to Thoreau’s ideas and writings by employing a photographic method existing in Thoreau’s time and invented by a contemporary, William Henry Fox Talbot, who created the Calotype process. Kurita explains, “I have two mentors. One is Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), who urged a re-experience of the relationship between nature and humans. The other is William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877), who taught what photography is. Beyond Spheres is about my visual journey which, in its conclusion, will be an address of gratitude to my two mentors whom I have never met.” Kurita’s approach provides a unique opportunity to experience Thoreau’s philosophy of man’s relationship to nature in visual form and demonstrates the value of photography—slow photography, made by hand—in today’s fast paced world.

    

Handmade Photography with Calotype (Talbotype) Paper Negatives

Kurita has chosen to work with Calotype, an early photographic process invented by William Henry Fox Talbot in 1841, in which a paper negative is produced and then used to make a positive contact print by exposure to sunlight. The Calotype emulsion requires processing just before exposure and development must be done on location. This process, which preceded the glass plate and subsequent film technologies, is a slow process and its unique beauty is closely aligned to the nature of paper. Once the negatives are created they are placed against albumen or salt print paper, and contact printed with the sun. Kurita currently has about 60 images printed from Calotype negatives in sizes from 8”x10” to 16”x30” and, in this final phase, will create more work to be shown in upcoming exhibitions. In addition, the photographer is currently working with a well known Boston-based publisher of fine arts books to create a volume presenting his work.

 

"Sense of Place" Southold, NY 2010 Albumen print and Calotype paper negatives 16x30"

Photographing NY, ME, the “World of Walden”, MA and the Concord River Watershed

With the launch of the Beyond Spheres project in 2010 Kurita began to create Calotype work on the East End of Long Island, NY and in Maine (2010-2013). From 2014 to 2015, after moving his studio to Lowell, MA, the photographer focused on capturing the “World of Walden” in and around Concord, MA, where Thoreau built the cabin where he lived for two years, two months and two days. It was this experience that led the author/philosopher to write Walden, the work that has inspired readers, including Kurita, for so many years. Starting in October, 2015 and through 2016 the focus of the project shifted to exploring and photographing remote and hidden sites, often only accessible by canoe, along the Ipswich, Concord, Assabet, Sudbury and Merrimack Rivers in an effort to retrace portions of the 1839 journey chronicled in Thoreau’s book A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.

 

About the Artist

As a college student at Kwansei Gakkuin University in Kobe Koichiro Kurita studied perceptual psychology and used a camera extensively to aid in his researches, an experience which led after graduation to a successful career in commercial photography. In 1980 a chance reading of Thoreau’s Walden inspired Kurita to turn from commercial photography to focus on large-format landscape photography, with the objective of giving pictorial form to Thoreau’s ideas and writings. In the early 1990’s Kurita came to the United States on a grant from the Asian Cultural Council Foundation created by John D. Rockefeller 3rd to encourage international dialogue between artists and scholars. Since that time the photographer has continued to explore what Thoreau described as the “harmonious relationship between nature and humanity” by means of his serene, contemplative photographic images. Koichiro Kurita’s works have been exhibited internationally and collected by numerous museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Harvard Art Museums, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the George Eastman Museum, the Maison Europeene de la Photographie, the Biblioteque National, Paris, the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum and others.

 

Acknowledgement to the Generous Supporters of the Beyond Spheres Project

In 2010 the Beyond Spheres project (www.beyondspheres.org) was launched with fiscal sponsorship from the New York Foundation for the Arts. Since then the project has collaborated with galleries and institutions such as the North Fork Audubon Society, NY, Waterfall Arts, ME, Bennington College, VT, the Rhode Island School of Design, RI, the Tenri Cultural Institute, NYC, the Massachusetts Audubon Society, Ipswich, MA, the Farnsworth Art Museum, ME, and the Griffin Museum of Photography, MA. In addition to these galleries and institutions the support of many individual donors has made the Beyond Spheres project possible. Your continuing generous support, for which we thank you in advance, will allow us to proceed with the various ongoing phases of this project.