The Cherry Blossom in Kilburn

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The Cherry Blossom in Kilburn
Enda Bowe

A new book of photographs considers the stillness and symbolism of cherry blossom in an unexpected urban landscape

"The soft grey light Ireland has for most of the year is the light l love, full of tones and sensitivity. It is the grey light l imagine Vermeer using as he painted in the Netherlands, full of subtlety, soft colours, and possibilities," says photographer Enda Bowe. His new book, The Cherry Blossom in Kilburn, catches this light in gentle photographs of the cherry blossom in unexpected urban environments.

The book has been published by London-based Jane Wilson and Jeremy Kunze, of the independent book publishing company Jane & Jeremy. Specialising in the individual stitching of handsewn coloured bookbindings, the duo consider the book itself, and not just its content, a creative artifact. Only one hundred copies of Enda’s collection have been published, each containing a signed print by the photographer.

"I noticed the beauty and the spring optimism of the cherry blossom standing out against grey urban backgrounds"

The photographs were inspired by the Japanese tradition of the renku poem, which, in turn, gave birth to the haiku, a verse form which juxtaposes, albeit very briefly, two images or ideas. In their juxtaposition within the verse, the images become intimately related, just as the vision of the pink blossom becomes married to the grey urban scenes in all its surprising beauty. The simplicity of the imagery reflects a minimal Japanese aesthetic, which acted as inspiration for the photographer, "I had always wanted to do something based on the Japanese cherry blossom, but not in Japan where it is photographed and painted by many people."

Enda chose Kilburn, where he was living, as it is traditionally the home of the Irish emigrant, and the bold appearance of the cherry blossom seemed to play with ideas of hopefulness and revival, "I noticed the beauty and the spring optimism of the cherry blossom standing out against grey urban backgrounds; and at the same noticed elderly Irish emigrants and many other emigrants of other nationalities returning home to these urban housing locations." The images, all taken in the very early morning, capture moments of stillness and tranquility. Enda drew inspiration from Don Paterson’s poem, Renku: My Last Thirty-Five Deaths, of which he said: "I love his language, sometime harsh imagery, but also full of beauty."