"UBATAMA" 2009-2011

Seeing darkness – as in the absence of light – is synonymous with being unable to see. In the case of photographs, which are a record of light, one can put it another way: darkness can be expressed by the fact that light isn’t recorded on the film.

It would probably be fair to say that the invention of artificial lighting was essential to the formation of modern life. Factories shining brightly in the darkness as they continued operating even after nightfall must have been quite an astonishing sight for the first people who saw them. The entirely separate worlds of day and night were transformed by this invention, enabling night to be treated as merely an extension of day. Humans’ attitude to darkness must have changed so much since then. It seems that today, we no longer treat the word “darkness” as anything more than a concept used metaphorically. Accordingly, I decided to look at and experience the darkness around me as pre-modern darkness.

In Japanese tanka poetry, “ubatama” (“jet black”) is used as a makurakotoba (“pillow word”)* for alluding to darkness.

*A figure of speech used in classical Japanese poetry to allude to a specific word.