The Almost-as-Great Wave
Once again from the Pier 24 photography space in San Francisco, this is a view of Mount Fuji from the surface of Lake Kawaguchiko, taken in 2003 by Asako Narahashi. Of course, the true subject of the work is its world-famous doppelganger, “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”, woodblock printed by Katsushika Hokusai in about 1831. The differences matter as much as any likenesses. Hokusai shows us the disembodied view of a kind of omniscient narrator – an “omniscient looker”, you could say – who seems to glimpse the struggling sailors almost by accident as he takes in distant Mount Fuji. (Shades of W.H. Auden’s “Musee des Beaux Arts”). Whereas with Narahashi, we see the mountain through modern eyes immersed in the water but made impervious to it by technology. Water splashes onto the glass of the floating photographer’s lens but has no effect; the sun’s flare off the surface of the lake is forced to take on the hexagonal shape of the camera’s aperture. Narahashi reflects on his culture’s past, from its present.
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