The Taisho Photographer's House: A forgotten darkroom of the last century
About 18 months ago my dear friend Florian Seidel contacted me letting me know about a location that might be of some photographic interest to me.
Florian and I often travel together to haikyo, or abandoned places, which he meticulously documents over on his website Abandoned Kansai. He puts a huge amount of time and research into his work and has the largest and most informative blog on the topic in all of Japan.
I’m very privileged to occasionally be allowed to tag along.
The location he provided me with this time proved to be a particularly special one, and is the subject of my latest exhibition, opening this weekend at Artsite Gallery in Sydney (brochure here).
Hidden atop a hill, deep in a bamboo grove in northern Japan lies a house full of history.
Japan is full of abandoned residences, but very few offer us quite the same glimpse into the lives of its former residents as this one. Constructed some time during the Taisho era (1912-1926) and abandoned in the late 70s or early 80s, several generations of family lived here (likely the Matsunobu family based on documents remaining on the property), and one of these people was a photographer.
I know this because tucked away on the second floor of the house behind a rotting door is a dark room, and littered amongst the debris resulting from years of nature's ingress were over 200 glass plate negatives.
These negatives afford us a rare glimpse into the life of the photographer, his friends and family. We see the house as its being constructed. We see a posed portrait from the photographer's wedding. We see local neighbours and school children. We see him reading a newspaper with a pet macaque perched on his shoulder.
Many of these photos were taken in and around the property itself, which is now half collapsed and increasingly consumed by the encroaching bamboo.
In this exhibition I present my own photography of this peaceful small parcel of land as it exists today, alongside images taken by the Taisho Photographer, as well as images attempting to bridge the gap between these two eras.
While some may find the images ghostly or confronting due to the level of decay, I find some comfort in knowing that a house which served for so many years as a bustling family nexus is now at rest amongst the quiet and peaceful natural surrounds, which are slowly and gently reclaiming it.
In the meantime, an exhibition featuring some of these images alongside my own photography of the site will be running from May 7th-29th 2016.
Please come and visit the show if you are able, which consists of archival giclee prints hand printed by me in my studio in Tokyo.
You can also see a preview of the images here in the gallery.
Hamish Campbell 2016
Exhibition opening 3-5pm Sunday 8th May, with guest speaker Patrick O'Carrigan, Urban Designer, Fellow of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects and Consultant to The Heritage Office of NSW.
All Welcome. More info HERE
Exhibition Preview: Saturday 7th May 11am - 5pm.
This article and all the images were originally published on Hamish Campbell´s blog (here) and shared with his permission.