Images Courtesy of MACK
Text and Interview: Alec Coiro
Anders Edström has been a Swedish expatriate in Japan long enough now that he has lived through his adopted country’s changes. These changes are typified in the demolition of the gardens from which his latest book takes its title. Hanezawa Garden thus becomes the perfect subject for the photographer to explore his larger and evolving project of capturing contemporary Japan through his very unique perspective. He told us about his fraught relationship with his subject matter and his dialectical interaction with it produced his latest book, Hanezawa Garden.
Hanezawa Garden takes us deeper into your immersion into Japanese culture. Do you find your approach or your perception changing as this journey continues? And do you think “immersion” is the right word?
The truth is that I was trying to escape Japanese culture. I secretly climbed into Hanezawa Garden in order to think in peace and to look at things away from everyday life in Tokyo. Away from the culture that disturbed me; the noise, pachinko, girls in school uniforms, salary men, electrical wires etc. No one else was in there. I was able to regroup. I was able to look at things that interested me.
My perception changed little by little but it took several years. I was very lost at first because it was at a time when I didn’t know how I wanted to take pictures anymore. I photographed things in the garden without any purpose. In my mind, I had already quit photography. So it took a few years for me to realize that I’d actually been working on something. At that point. I started going to the garden with a different mindset.
I think it taught me to be more patient and also what it means to really pay attention. I don’t mean that I’ve totally learned that (I don’t think I ever will), but at least I became better at it. To appreciate changes in the light and weather; the different seasons; to revisit places with an open mind instead of thinking that I’ve already seen them. So yes, I think ‘immersion’ is a suitable word. However, I was immersed into the garden itself.
Can you explain the Gilles Deleuze quote C.W. Winter uses in the book’s essay? How do you think it relates to your work?
“The image no longer has space and movement as its primary characteristics but topology and time.”
In other words, it’s not so much about continuous action or constant impact, it’s just about spending time slowly in a landscape.
I think it relates to my work. Most of the time I walk around or just sit down and look at the light, colors, reflections changing. I do this naturally for my own pleasure. It’s one of my favorite things to do. While doing this I sometimes take some pictures. The years pass and naturally groups and sequences of pictures are formed.
How did you and Winter come to work together on this book?
We didn’t actually work on the book together, but we’re close friends since fifteen years, so we usually talk about things we work on. He knows my work better than anyone. I showed the book to him and as always he had some good advice.
What type of camera did you take these photographs with, and what were your processing techniques?
I used a Nikon FM3A with negative film. I started with a Nikon F thirty years ago. Then Nikon F2 for a few years and then the Nikon FM3A since 1995. I scanned the negatives and prepared files in Photoshop. In 2016, I’ve decided to switch to digital.
Do you think there is a relationship between the demolition of the Hanezawa Garden itself and the project of the photographer to preserve time? Do you find preserving moments in time to be part of your photographic practice?
I take pictures like that too, just in order to remember how things were. There are fascinating photographs like that. My own work doesn’t have anything to do with that though.
For me, it’s about documenting a change or to tell some kind of story. To show movement or stillness in a sequence. I’m attracted to beautiful light, shapes and colors like most people so I photograph that too but I make a real effort in taking pictures with a lot of dilution and weakness. This allows me to regulate the mood when I create the sequence.