“The digital process becomes a tool, almost like a time machine, as I’m embarking on the journey to where I once belonged and at the same time becoming a tourist in my own history.” – Chino Otsuka
In today’s globalized world, each one of us yearn for a personal identity. Self-portrait in photography is one of the means to meet that goal.
A photographic exhibition titled “Memoriography” was run throughout the British Library from October 2 to December 30, 2008. It displayed works of Chino Otsuka, a London-based Japanese photographer. The exhibition was a sensory experience that encouraged visitors to relate their own memories with hers.
In 1982, at age 10, Chino Otsuka moved from Japan to the United Kingdom. She left the strict traditional Japanese school system for Summerhill School in Suffolk, England. There, for the first two years, she attended no lessons at all. When she left the school she had certificates in English, Chemistry and Photography. She studied photography at the University of Westminster. She received a post-graduate degree in Fine Art Photography from the Royal College of Art.
She has exhibited her work in the UK, Europe and Asia. She had a major solo show at Huis Marseille Museum for Photography, Amsterdam.
Chino Otsuka’s adolescent experience in the new country – its people, language and customs – shaped her writing. She has published four books in Japan. Her first autobiography published at the age of 15 was much acclaimed.
Imagine Finding Me
Chino Otsuka uses photography and video, to explore the seamless relationship between time and lingering memory.
Chino Otsuka wondered what it might be like to meet herself as a child. Her series “Imagine Finding Me” consists of twelve digitally manipulated composite double self-portraits of her present and past selves. She visits her younger self by digitally amalgamating recent photographs of herself, taken in 2005 and 2009, with photographs of her journeys with her parents when she was a child. This evokes a subtle and wistful realization of transience of time.
Her choice of transitional objects such as parks, bridges, vacation spots, hotels, trains, etc., was deliberate. She says:
“things are not quite past or present, or somewhere in between… that has reflected from my upbringing, where I’m neither here nor there, and I’m not really Japanese or English.”
The series “Imagine Finding Me” has become her most exhibited work shown over 14 countries.
Oh thithi thara thithey, thithey thaka they they tho…
Oh thithi thara, thithey thaka they they tho…
Oh thithi thara thithey, thithey thaka they they thom…
When I woke up this morning I was extremely energised. Although I am born and brought up in Kerala, I have never gone to watch the glorious Nehru Cup snake boat race ever. I was very excited, even though I had no clue how the race was going to be or if it would be worth at all. At that moment I was more charged to use my DSLR camera which I was going to use after almost a year. Since iPhones I have been so lazy to use any other than the phone camera; instagraming pictures all the time.
The journey had begun. One hour to go till we reached the site of the event. We were four of us but none had any idea about what was going to happen there. The thrill of the whole experience lied in the ambiguity of it. Even so the entire time I was extremely skeptical to use the camera since I had lost all practice of using it. To top it all as soon as we got there it started to rain; with it washed away all my hopes of trying to click any pictures, but we thought we shall still give it a shot. And once we reached there it was so crazily crowded, noisy and slushy; I had somewhere given up hope of watching the race. There was no way in hell we would have made it inside. Just then we found a pole and got a little adventurous. Each of us took turns to climb on it to get at least one glimpse of the event. I got a little greedy, I asked one of my friend’s to hold the umbrella for me while I stood on the pole and took at least one picture of the event.
So I did manage to get one, however unprofessional looking and blurred it was. I was happy at that moment and thought that at least I had proof of being there.
We started to head back thinking we won’t get any closer so no point staying. That’s when we saw a little door, where only tourists could enter. We went through there, to finally realise we were adjacent to the finish line.
We squished, squashed, tugged through the crowd and somehow managed to get a little closer to the water.
It was an amazing sight even though I was mashed between three sweaty, tacky and alcohol breath locals.
The entire place looked spectacular. There was a thrill in the air that was so contagious. The crowd cheering, the speeches overwhelming, the boats were just getting lined up; all set to race.
I was standing on my toes to get a glimpse of the entire spectacle, trying to capture the moment each time.
The men looked geared up and packed with energy.
But the roar from the crowd grew louder when a boat rowed by all women made an appearance.
The crowd was everywhere. There were houseboats lined up in front, some watching comfortably from their personal yachts, some swimming in water, some camouflaged on top of the trees.
The boats now started to move towards the starting point; the race was about to begin any minute.
The umpires were scattered everywhere, with their eyes concentrated on the boats passing by.
The fire force taking its position. Ready for the boats to set the scene ablaze with excitement.
There were cops lazing around on boats waiting in anticipation.
The divers sitting tight, anxious and alert.
While I was waiting at the edge taking pictures of the now impatient crowd and the calm waters which in no time would be flooded with boats racing for honor and life.
Just then, my friend screamed from a distance that the race has begun. It was all haphazard henceforth. The boats were being rowed so quickly, I barely got a glance.
We hurried back as soon as boat number# 16 touched the finish line, as we were in no condition to go through a stampede on our way out of the place. The walk back to the car was peaceful, yet enlivening after watching one of the world’s most breathtakingly beautiful event. I don’t know if I will ever come back to watch it, but it definitely is a one time experience every person should live.
The photographic cameras were a development of the device generally known in Latin as camera obscura meaning “darkened chamber/room”. This device projects a faint upside-down image of the scene outside onto a viewing surface on the wall of a small darkened room where a small hole on the opposing wall lets in light from outside the building. A highly accurate representation of the image can be produced by tracing the projected image onto paper.
The term “camera obscura” itself was first used by the German astronomer Johannes Kepler in 1604.
Camera obscura has been known to ancient Chinese and ancient Greek philosophers as far back as the 5th to 4th Century BC, who have described the basic principles of optics (and the camera).
The first surviving mention of the principles behind the camera obscura or pinhole camera is attributed to Mozi (Mo-Ti) (470 to 390 BC), a Chinese philosopher and the founder of Mohism. Mozi referred to this device as a “collecting plate” or “locked treasure room.” He noted that an inverted and focused image is formed when light passes through a pinhole into a dark area. He is the first recorded person to have traced the inverted image to create a picture.
In the 4th century BC, Greek philosopher Aristotle (384 to 322 BC) noted that “sunlight travelling through small openings between the leaves of a tree, the holes of a sieve, the openings wickerwork, and even interlaced fingers will create circular patches of light on the ground.” In 330 BC, Aristotle understanding the optical principle of the pinhole camera described observing a crescent shaped image of a partial solar eclipse projected on the ground through the holes in a sieve and through the gaps between the leaves of a tree.
Again in the 4th century, Greek scholar Theon of Alexandria observed that “candlelight passing through a pinhole will create an illuminated spot on a screen that is directly in line with the aperture and the center of the candle.”
Euclid’s Optics (ca 300 BC) is the earliest surviving Greek treatise on perspective. In this work, Euclid presupposed the camera obscura as a demonstration of the fact that light travels in a straight line.
In the 6th century, Anthemius of Tralles, a Byzantine mathematician and architect designed the Hagia Sophia, a former Greek Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later an imperial mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. He used a type of camera obscura in his experiments.
The Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang, a miscellany of Chinese and foreign legends and hearsay, reports on natural phenomena, short anecdotes, and tales of the wondrous and mundane, written in about 840 AD by Duan Chengshi (d. 863) during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), mentioned inverting the image of a Chinese pagoda tower beside a seashore.
In the 9th century, Abu Yūsuf Yaʻqūb ibn ʼIsḥāq aṣ-Ṣabbāḥ al-Kindī Al-Kindi (Latin: Alkindus) (c. 801–873 CE), an Arab philosopher, mathematician, physician, and musician also known as “the Philosopher of the Arabs” and unanimously hailed as the “father of Islamic or Arabic philosophy” for his synthesis, adaptation and promotion of Greek and Hellenistic philosophy in the Muslim world, demonstrated that “light from the right side of the flame will pass through the aperture and end up on the left side of the screen, while light from the left side of the flame will pass through the aperture and end up on the right side of the screen.“
In the tenth century, the Arabic scholar Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥasan ibn al-Ḥasan ibn al-Haytham frequently referred to as Ibn al-Haytham or Alhazen, a Muslim scientist, polymath, mathematician, astronomer and philosopher, wrote in his Book of Optics (1015-1021) about observing a solar eclipse through a pinhole. He added that a sharper image could be produced by making the opening of the pinhole smaller. Alhazen gave the first clear description and early analysis of the camera obscura and pinhole camera. While Chinese philosopher Mozi, Aristotle, Theon of Alexandria, and Al-Kindi had earlier described the effects of a single light passing through a pinhole, none of them suggested that what is being projected onto the screen is an image of everything on the other side of the aperture. Alhazen was the first to successfully project an entire image from outdoors onto a screen indoors with the camera obscura.
Shen Kuo (1031–1095), a Chinese scientist of the Song Dynasty experimented with a camera obscura, and was the first to apply geometrical and quantitative attributes to it in his book of 1088 AD, the Dream Pool Essays.
In 13th-century, Roger Bacon in England, described the use of a camera obscura for the safe observation of solar eclipses.
On January 24, 1544, mathematician and instrument maker Reiners Gemma Frisius of Leuven University used a camera obscura to watch a solar eclipse. In the following year, he published a diagram of his method in De Radio Astronimica et Geometrico.
Camera obscura‘s potential as a drawing aid may have been familiar to artists by as early as the 15th century:
Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519 AD) described the camera obscura in Codex Atlanticus.
In 1685, Johann Zahn built the first camera obscura that was small enough for practical use as a portable drawing aid. His work “Oculus Artificialis Teledioptricus Sive Telescopium,” published in 1685, contains many descriptions and diagrams, illustrations and sketches of both the camera obscura and of the magic lantern..
It is held that Giambattista della Porta perfected camera obscura. In later editions of his Magia Naturalis (1558-1589), he described it as having a convex lens which helped in spreading knowledge about it. He compared the shape of the human eye to the lens in his camera obscura. He provided an easily understandable example of how light could bring images into the eye. In 1558, he was the first to recommend the method as an aid to drawing.
In his work “Saggio sopra la pittura“, Count Francesco Algarotti (December 11, 1712 – May 3, 1764), an Italian polymath, philosopher, poet, essayist, anglophile, art critic and art collector, dedicated one chapter to the use of a camera ottica (“optic chamber”) in painting.
It has been widely speculated that 17th century Dutch Masters, such as Johannes Vermeer, known for their magnificent attention to detail made use of devices such as camera obscura; however, the extent of their use by artists during this period remains a matter of considerable controversy.
Early models of camera obscura were large; comprising either a whole darkened room or a tent as employed by Johannes Kepler. By the 18th century, following developments by Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke, portable models became available. These were extensively used by amateur artists during their travels. However, they were also employed extensively by professionals, such as Paul Sandby and Canaletto. Joshua Reynolds’ camera, disguised as a book, is now in the Science Museum (London).
The largest camera obscura in the world is on Constitution Hill in Aberystwyth, Wales.
Later, such cameras were adapted by Joseph Nicephore Niepce, Louis Daguerre and William Fox Talbot for producing the first photographs.
There are so many wonderful stories and legends associated with the churches we photograph in France, but none is more pleasing than that of Saint Menulphe and his friend, the Simpleton of Mailly-sur-Rose, a town in the Allier.
Menulphe was the son of an Irish king and very devout. He traveled to England, Brittany and France and was recognized for his sanctity. When the Pope heard of this and asked him to come to Rome, Menulphe walked the route in poverty, a mendicant with no possessions. On his return, he stopped in Mailly-sur-Rose, exhausted with his journey. During that time, Menulphe took pity on an innocent named Blaise who was the scapegoat for local children. One day he intervened as the young urchins threw stones at Blaise. He chided the boys and took the young man under his protection. Blaise was described as a simpleton, one who could barely speak, and never left Menulphe’s side. He couldn’t pronounce his protector’s name and “Menulfe” became “Menoux”.
When Menoux died, Blaise thought that the holy man was asleep. He spent his days and nights at the grave, conversing with his friend. One day visitors to the cemetery saw that the coffin had been dug up and that there was a hole in the side. They discovered Blaise laying on his stomach, with his head in the hole, talking to someone. The local people were scandalized but the curé said, “Poor Blaise, he is a better and more faithful friend than we are. Perhaps he is the least crazy of all.”
The Curé placed Menoux’s remains in a sandstone sarcophagus and had an opening cut into one side. Blaise spent the rest of his life conversing with his friend, and miraculously, the troubles of his mind faded to the point that he was able to serve mass. At the time of his death, Blaise had the reputation of being a simple, faithful man, as sensible as anyone.
Thereafter, in memory of the miraculous healing of Blaise, parents led the bredins, the simple-minded, before the tomb of Menoux and placed their heads carefully into the sarcophagus – the débredinoire – hoping for the same healing that Blaise experienced. Eventually the site received such a number of pilgrims that the Benedictines built an abbey on the site under the direction of the Abbess Adalgasie and placed the sarcophagus with Menoux’s relics in the choir. They also changed the name of the village from Mailly-sur-Rose to Saint Menoux. The fairs held by the abbesses attracted vendors and buyers which led to the expansion of the village.
The church gives an idea of the importance of this abbey and the monastics who resided there. It was built in the classic Cluny style in the early part of the twelfth century. The nave has three tall, narrow bays with ogive arches covered with groin vaults.
The side aisles are, as usual, visually stunning. We see the long, uninterrupted flow to the ambulatory in the distance.
The north side aisle, however, has a unique feature. Just to the west of the transept arch is a rather clumsily executed structure that contains a stairway leading to a defensive tower on the exterior. Poking up through the roof, that tower looks almost like a minaret.
The raised apse is perhaps the finest element of the church. The choir has two elegant high bays topped with clerestory windows while the chancel features a seven bay hemicycle with an arcade of windows leading to the oven vault.
The débredinoire of Saint Menoux is found centered behind the altar in the chancel. These reliquaries have been placed between the pillars of the central hemicycle arch and the tomb can be seen just behind.
The oldest part of the church, built in the eleventh century, is the narthex on the west end of the church. This antechamber has beautiful arcades supporting a short barrel vault. Some of the pillars are topped with capitals, but it is clear that the restoration was not complete. Fragments of some of the original statuary are rather casually displayed in the arcades.
Today, the abbey is gone – only the church remains after the destruction of the French Revolution. The town of Saint Menoux is quiet and peaceful for its 1,009 residents. The church is not well tended; there are rat droppings and cobwebs throughout. Dust cakes the benches and the chairs, but pilgrims still frequent the Église Saint Menoux in order to use the débredinoire for relief from feeble-mindedness or headaches.
Lest we think that credulous in the Middle Ages were alone in these workings, look at this passage in “The Invisible Architecture” by George Prat (2000).
“For more than forty years I made fun of the débredinoire which I considered an example of public credulity … My surprise was great to see that the débredinoire works and is not a gimmick. Thedébredinoire is placed at the geometric center of the apse …. and is located at the junction point of thetelluric current and four streams of water. … When one realizes that this is a machine from another age and can be activated by an ‘acupuncture point’ located nearby, we are amazed at the electrical energy released … The débredinoire is actually an instrument of care-giving; when used correctly, the equivalent a high intensity shock is given to the user. This is certainly very effective in the case of some nervous breakdowns.” People will always find a reason to believe if the need is great enough.
Our daughter Sarah suffers from debilitating migraines and PJ placed her own head in the sarcophagus in hopes of helping. I guess it doesn’t hurt to try! But you must be careful not to touch the tomb while inserting your head. You run the risk of absorbing the feeble-mindedness and headaches of all who preceded you!
If you are interested in seeing some other churches in this region, follow this link.
I arrived at the end of June in flurry of auto-rickshaws, an epic train journey and an all night Kattaikkuttu performance, just as the month of storytelling was about to begin at Kattaikkuttu Gurukulam. It began with the arrival of professional storyteller Craig Jenkins on the 5th of July on his forth pilgrimage to the school. The excitement and exhilaration of everyone at the school (not just the children) told me this was indeed a special visitor and this month would indeed be one to write about.
I had to admit to Craig that I never realised Storytelling was a profession and not only that but an intricate and important art form, which like dance, acting, writing or painting must come from the heart and with a passion for the meanings and truths behind what is being told or addressed.
There is a vast oral and written tradition of storytelling here in India and many Middle Eastern countries, a lot of which will now have been translated for the western world and so, will be familiar to many. For example, I’m sure most people will know of the Middle Eastern epic – One Thousand and One Nights (or Arabian Nights) famously popularised and americanised by Disney. Perhaps their knowledge of the roots of Aladin or Ali Baba The Forty Thieves is a little vague however. What Craig brings to Kattaikkuttu Gurukulam is by all means not a westernised version of the Mahabharata or the Ramayana, neither is it simply the beautiful oral tradition passed down to him through his much loved Guru Vayu Naidu; it is an exciting, enticing and educational experience through which he applies his successful mantra of taking old, traditional stories and bringing them into the contemporary. This allows students of all ages to deconstruct the stories they have heard their whole lives, look at them from a different angle, redesign their meanings and use them to examine contemporary issues such as gender and prejudice. This is complimented by learning new stories through which students can learn for themselves how to create, construct and perform these stories.
As I write this I realise how much I have already learnt about this art and I am excited to learn more. Our storytelling workshop ‘Mun Oru Kalattil,’ taking place at the end of this month will provide me with the perfect opportunity. It will be a truly educational and eye opening experience for everyone involved, whatever their profession or reason for attending.
However, learning about this art has made me wonder why we have lost the presence of this tradition in our own culture. Undoubtedly it is still there but I think its importance and meaning within society has been lost, especially in an educational sense. Perhaps I am wrong however and it is simply my own ignorance to the art which has denied me to see it in its full light and capacity back in my corner of the world. And with that thought, the will in me to learn more about storytelling and the stories which have been kept alive in India through this oral and written tradition, has grown all the stronger!