Untitled 1985, from the series Raven Scenes by Masahisa Fukase
“With Ravens, Fukase eschewed traditional notions of portraiture and documentary, instead creating an impressionistic narrative that merges the deeply personal – his forlorn and obsessive state of mind – and the allegorical – the collective trauma of postwar Japan. It is Fukase’s own personality that one senses most strongly in the work, both his lingering obsession with the women he once photographed relentlessly and his increasing identification with the birds he pursues with his camera. Though other subjects appear in the book – a strange cat, a nude woman, a homeless man – it is the ravens that compel Fukase. So much so that, in 1982, he wrote in his diary that he had “become a raven”. It is tempting to view the obsessive nature of Ravens through the distorting lens of Fukase’s tragic life: in 1992, he fell down a flight of stairs in a bar and remained in a coma for 20 years until his death in 2012. In his essay, though, Kosuga places Ravens in the context of Fukase’s other work as well as his turbulent life. It is an interesting reappraisal of an artist whose life and work intertwined in an often self-destructive way. If anything, it shows just how much Fukase identified with the birds that have become his defining subject. The book’s original title was The Solitude of the Ravens, which somehow seems more fitting. It is not their freedom he was drawn to, but rather their solitary nature, their otherness.”
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