Beautiful and Unclichéd Photographs of Japanese Landscapes

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Albarrán Cabrera, The Mouth of Krishna, 2018Courtesy of IBASHO, Antwerp

A new exhibition in Antwerp details the work of Spanish photographic duo Albarrán Cabrera and their profound interest in the country and culture of Japan

Spanish photographic duo Albarrán Cabrera first travelled to Japan six years ago, and have returned there every year since. Turning their lens to Japan’s landscapes and characters, Anna P Cabrera and Angel Albarrán offer a new perspective on the nation through their images via their choice of subject and innovative method of processing images – the pair incorporate both modern and traditional printing techniques into their practice, with additions such as Japanese paper and gold leaf bringing a distinctive warmth and unique palette to their colour prints.

Having taken pictures all over the country – in Tokyo, Kyoto, Kamakura, Nikko, Shikoku, the Seto Inland Sea, Sendai and Iwate – the photographers are presenting their work in a new exhibition which comprises images from two series, together entitled Subtle Shadows of Bamboo on Bamboo. Motifs you might expect from a photo series on Japan – bamboo, as its title suggests, mountainous silhouettes, blossom trees, temples and a raven all appear – are present in the exhibition’s collection of dreamy images, but minus any hint of cliché.

“Japanese culture is subject to many stereotypes and enormous misconceptions. At the beginning, you are attracted by its aesthetics and philosophy,” the pair says, “but once you study the language, the people and their history, you discover the reality about this country: the good and bad things, like any country has.” Albarrán Cabrera are “deeply attracted to traditional Japanese aesthetics,” thus the country’s storied aesthetic concepts and considerations, that permeate much of daily life in Japan, filter into their practice. In Subtle Shadows of Bamboo on Bamboo, the concept of yūgen takes centre stage: that which represents the profound and mysterious beauty of the world, laced with a sadness at the ultimate transience of human life.  

The image-makers see photography as a highly subjective medium. “We feel that photography can help the viewers to understand difficult concepts,” they say. “In our particular case, we use photography as a tool to generate visual metaphors that help us understand our reality, what we are and what the world around us is like.” This of course extends to the viewer, who can project their own interpretations, feelings and memories onto the photograph. In the case of Albarrán Cabrera and Subtle Shadows of Bamboo on Bamboo, photography allows an alternative, but no less authentic, view of reality.

Albarrán Cabrera: Subtle Shadows of Bamboo on Bamboo runs at IBASHO Gallery, Antwerp, until March 10, 2019.