Kikai Hiroh’s AnatoliaPosted: 13/12/2011
In a career of over 35 years, Kikai Hiroh has pursued four long-term projects, each (with rare exceptions) black and white: portraits in Asakusa (with no distracting background), urban scenes in Tokyo (with no distracting people), India, and Turkey. But while early installments of each of the first three appeared in Camera Mainichi (†1985), Turkey started later: Kikai’s first visit there was in 1994 and the earliest appearance I’ve found is in Asahi Camera of April 1997. And while each of the other three series was the subject of one or more books by the end of the century, the Turkey series got its first book only this year, with Anatolia. Here it is.
Like India (1992) and the original Persona (2003), Anatolia is a big (31×30 cm), handsome and, it must be said, rather expensive book. It has 140 black and white plates, all “landscape” format (roughly 26×17 cm).
We’ve seen the external trappings; now let’s dive in.
The title page leads straight to the photographs. Here are a couple of spreads to give the idea.
Left: Men repairing a telephone line and old woman shouldering a burlap sack • Safranbolu 1994
Right: Burlap sack bouncing up and down on an old woman’s back • Safranbolu 1994
This pair is highly unusual in that it presents two photographs seemingly taken within seconds of each other. The next pair is far more typical in sharing composition.
Left: Little excursion for a puppy • Divriği 2009
Right: Boy out selling bread early in the morning • Erzurum 2000
For each plate, there’s a page number and a caption whose descriptive/explanatory part is in Japanese only (e.g. for the last of these, “早朝、パンを売りに行く少年 Erzurum 2000″). The descriptive parts of the captions here (“Boy out selling bread early in the morning” and the rest) are in my translation. If you have the book and would like all the captions in English, read on.
I’m no expert in printing, but what we have here — as for Tokyo Portraits, by Bunkado of Odawara — is very good: tritone, I suppose. Like most books (and prints) by Kikai, most of the the action is in the midtones: very little black, and no white. In my photographs of the book I’ve first let my humble digicam think for me and then let Gimp normalize the results; I haven’t attempted to preserve the tonal range of the originals, which are very different.
Enough of the spreads; here are a handful of individual photographs. First is the one that starts the book:
Girl with a deformed leg playing alone on a swing • Kahramanmaraş 1996
Retired boxer living on a hill • Kastamonu 2000
Closing a small stall • Mardin 2005
Hill going up to an old castle • Ankara 2000
Peddler • Divriği 2005
Day for baking several days’ supply of bread • Diyarbakır 2009
Father’s clippers • Ankara 1996
Driver who’d lost his job for having caused a traffic accident, and his family • Ürgüp 1996
On the bank of the Euphrates in midwinter • Birecik 2000
It covers much of Turkey (though not the islands): “Anatolia” is actually a misnomer, but the series started in Anatolia and was titled accordingly, so I suppose Kikai got used to this. (He has also said that a book titled “Turkey” / Toruko might suggest a tourist souvenir.)
People in landscapes, street scenes, alley scenes, country roads, plenty of environmental portraits. Sometimes Kikai is just an observer; often he’s observed. Often too there was some interaction (“Couple wanting to show me a cow they’re proud to be raising”, “Housewife offering me a freshly baked loaf of bread as big as a tray”). Just as Kikai has never provided “Asakusa in India”, nowhere do you get “Asakusa in Turkey” — but there are resemblances, and it’s no great surprise that the same mind produced both Asakusa Portraits and this. Kikai does photograph the Turkey of tradition; the Turkey of George Georgiou’s Fault Lines seems a world away. But although there are plenty of peaceful moments, it’s an unsentimental look at people getting by in a land that often looks chilly and inhospitable.
The book is available here at Japan Exposures.
It seemed a pity that the captions would only be half understandable for people who happened not to be able to read Japanese; so, with Kikai’s permission, I translated them into English and here they are. In your choice of either of two fonts, the PDF fits onto two sides of A4. The two versions differ only by font:
- in Georgia (already installed on most Windows and Mac OS X computers)
- in DejaVu serif (already installed on most Linux computers, and available here)
(If this is gobbledygook to you, click on the first rather than the second.)
All photographs reproduced above are copyright © Kikai Hiroh, who kindly permitted their reproduction on this page.