The Solitude of Ravens by Masahisa Fukase

The Solitude of Ravens was Masahisa Fukase’s last work before he plunged into a coma. This is a monumental and pivotal work in the history of fine art photography.

Words can never suffice for these emotional photographs.  Fukase is considered to be both a legend and an enigma in his native Japan and for a culture that is traditionally reluctant to expose emotion in public, the expressionistic character of Fukase’s work has since been unparalleled in its impact.

Born in 1934, Fukase grew up in a decade of the first Japanese children in which mannered self-control was not the ideal civic behavior. This new perspective, coupled with the effects of war, exploded into the avant-garde art scene in Tokyo. In elegant printing techniques emerged and the manic style of photography that Fukase shared with his contemporaries, among them Eikoh Hosoe, Daidoh Moriyama, and Shomei Tomatsu, reflected the “reaction to a world turned upside down.”

In the wake of his divorce in 1976 from Yoko, his wife of 13 years, Fukase began a search for absolution through his work which would last a decade.  His images crystallize solitude and death, appropriate to his last sombre years. He became obsessed with his subjects, with their darkness and loneliness. The Solitude of Ravens, then, is a wordless requiem.

Fukase, according to Yoko, was an intense and obsessive character despite the joyousness of the images he made of her early in his career. She described their life together as moments of “suffocating dullness interspersed by violent and near suicidal flashes of excitement.” After they split up, he suffered from bouts of depression and heavy drinking. “I work and photograph while hoping to stop everything,” he once said. “In that sense, my work may be some kind of revenge drama about living now.”

In Japanese mythology, ravens are disruptive presences and harbingers of dark and dangerous times – another reason, perhaps, why the photographer was drawn to them during his darkest hour. In 1992, five years after the book was published, Fukase fell down a flight of stairs in a bar. He has been in a coma ever since. His former wife, now remarried, visits him in hospital twice a month. “With a camera in front of his eye, he could see; not without,” she told an interviewer. “He remains part of my identity; that’s why I still visit him.”

For all that, there is a dark, brooding beauty in these images that is singular and affecting. In The Solitude of Ravens, Fukase found a subject that reflected his darkening vision, and he pursued it with obsessive relentlessness. It remains his most powerful work, and a kind of epitaph for a life that has been even sadder and darker than the photographs suggest.

The photobook ‘The Solitude of Ravens’ is rare and quite expensive, ranging from $200-1000USD, however you can find copies here or through Ebay.

Masahisa Fukase at the Victoria and Albert Museum
Masahisa Fukase at the Stephen Wertz Gallery

A Crow City – Deep Thoughts of a Bird Brain

A Crow City recently hopped up and lightly pecked us on the shoulder, blinked cutely, and began to twitter.  I instantly fell in love with its darkly funny narratives and snapshots of what I can only discern is the author.  After all, if crows can use tools, what is to stop them from figuring out photoshop?

Below are some of our favorites!

You can get your daily dose via Facebook or RSS.

15 Silliest Crow, Magpie, & Jackdaw Photos

Throughout history, literature, and art, there is a frequent romanticism of Crows and Ravens that leaves little room for humor. There is certainly nothing funny about Rooks (just look at that mug!) and Ravens prefer to heckle than be heckled, but that doesn’t count out the Corvid Clowns – Crows and Jackdaws, from providing us with several silly moments:

A raven gives a hawk a hard time…

Meanwhile, a crow gives  model Petra Nemcova a hard time…

This crow shows off his looted peanut…

…then makes a run for it.

Another shot of the Japanese Soccer team…

Why did crowzilla cross the road?

What do you think happened next?

One of my personal favorites…

One of the post circulated bird memes…it sure sucks to be the youngest!

And finally…while Corvids and their black-feathered cousins have given us plenty of laughs, what would a funny bird incident post be without a classic shot of a pigeon doing what they do best?

What  funny corvid pics have you come across?

[box]Many of these photos are internet or email sensations, and as a result the author credit has been lost. If you are the original photographer of any of these photos without a cited author, please contact us!![/box]

The Raven Diaries

Rick and Diana Boufford are a grassroots on fire for live couple who dedicate large amounts of their time to documenting Ravens  in Utah, Catalina, and more. Their love for all things living is portrayed through the relationships and lives of ravens and all the different kinds of animals we share territory with.  They are currently hard at work on their debut documentary film The Raven Diaries, which you can preview below.

Check out more at The Raven Diaries website

Crows Learning to Fly

I’ve been following a pair of Hooded Crows living on my roof for awhile now, and on a rainy morning recently I heard them launch southward with 6 or 7 voices following them. As the rain let down a bit and the sun peeked through the clouds, I followed their distant cawing. As I approached down a side street, they came to greet me. They circled above, diving and spinning, leading me onwards to a stand of cedars towering on the edge of the foothills. There they landed, pausing only for a moment to count heads, and then launched off again down the hill and back up again. It was then that I realized that they, and what is probably a pair of their older children, were teaching four younglings how to fly!

For more photos, go here






Obscured by Light – Remains of Winter

Sometime back in January, I was sitting in my office on a particularily cold mid-morning. Everything beyond my windows was a shade or two of grey, interrupted only by streaks of icy white cruelty. Since moving permanently to Zagreb in 2007, I had never experienced cold such as this, nor for so long.

I was pondering how many sweaters to put on when a jackdaw slammed into the north facing window. The sound was so loud I thought one of the neighbor’s kids had thrown a soccer ball at it.  I shot up out of my chair, ran over to the ledge, and leaned into the window-well to view the tiny lifeless body cushioned eight feet below in the snow beneath our pear tree.  After several moments of ringing my hands and standing there saying ‘oooh no. oh no no no’ over and over again, I finally grabbed a coat and my sneakers and went outside.

The cold immediately seized my lips for thought to speak. Each breath was like inhaling needles. As I approached the bird, I could see red trailing from his little beak. My face scrunched up in a rictus of horror. His eyes were half closed in the slumber of death. Under normal circumstances, I would have grabbed my camera and shot an entire series, but for some reason it seemed more apt to remain in the moment. I took him in my hands, checking his warm little chest for a heartbeat. His head lolled loosely on his shoulders, and as I sniffled away my first tear, should it freeze upon my cheek, I chuckled to myself upon closer inspection of the beak – it was smeared with the remains of his last berry, likely fermented in the clutch of winter. The cold and the poor food had probably addled his mind, and he misjudged his launch from the tree branch to another likely reflected within my window.

I cradling him along one sleeve of my coat, and walked half a mile into the forest to lay him to rest in the nook between a young chestnut’s sprawling roots. To this day, I am haunted by how warm his little body was.  Today, it is 24C and beautiful, and my hooded crows Kara and Kaine are busy meeting the demands of their hatchlings.

This past winter hit Bucharest equally as hard, and one of our readers captured the compelling photos in this post to document the effect it had on corvids in the area.

As he describes it, “The Remains of Winter series refers to the dead birds lying in the parks, killed by the cold weather, hunger or thirst, during one of the most bitter winters in the last twenty years. Among the children’s playgrounds you can spot these creatures lying on the ground.”

To view more Obscured By Light photography, visit the artist’s photography blog here.

GothicCrow – Etsy Spotlight

“I always had photography in my life. My dad was a professional photographer and we grew up with a dark room in the basement and a studio in our living room. It just feels natural to be working with photographs. I use both film and digital cameras and my computer acts as my dark room. I have sold my pictures at art fairs, stores and on line for a few years.
I also care about the treatment of animals and support local animal groups in my area. I have several pets that were once in dire straights, they are now part of my family and inspire me everyday.”

There are so many beautiful images of New York’s carrion crows among the chilling landscapes, graveyards, and spires, that we had a hard time choosing some to feature!

Visit GothicCrow’s Etsy shop for more!

Rodriguez Munro

rooks*** by Rodriguez Munro.

When the rooks were laid in piles
by the sides of the road
crashing into the aerials
tangled in the laundery line
and gathered in a field
they were burned in a feathering pyre
with a cold black eye

crow III by Rodriguez Munro.

When the swallows fell from the eaves
and the gulls from the spires
and starlings in the millions
will feed on the ground where they lie
the ambulance men said there’s
nowhere to flee for your life
so we stayed inside
and we’ll sleep until
the world of man is paralyzed

it is me - crow serie by Rodriguez Munro.

Oh the falcon heir awakes
to the sound of the bells
they’re heading southbound
they’re leaving it alive
and each empty cage just rings
and is heard like a bell
underneath these cold stars
and this troubled night
and the cries of man
let the kingdom come to nigh
let this dream be realized

what we are. - crow serie by Rodriguez Munro.

*play dead by Rodriguez Munro.

View the entire series here

(Poem from Shearwater – Rooks)