2010 by Rinko Kawauchi
Kawauchi is one of Japan’s foremost contemporary photographers, capturing images that are quietly piercing in their choice of subject and care of conception. Murmuration was a project commissioned by Photoworks, allowing Kawauchi to seek inspiration in England. Her style, though distinctly Japanese with its attention to detail and determination to draw beauty out of simplicity, translates and enlightens her British subjects. Murmuration captures starlings at Brighton pier, a daily occurrence at dusk in the Winter months, and one that Kawauchi freezes to create an almost transcendental image. The birds circle, fall and swoop in a cascade that ebbs and flows as easily as the sea they swoop over. The delicate points of their wings are caught in Kawauchi’s sharp lens, exposing the grace of these flying forms, their collective mass forming a pattern of elegance in the sky. The simplicity of black and white photography, contrasted with restraint, adds to the understated element in the image – that beauty so often speaks for itself. The grade of the sky is warmly grey in a density that does not lie flat, but encompasses all the movement and liveliness of the expanse of the atmosphere. The shadowy black silhouettes of the birds are then sharply dark against this soft background, demonstrating not only their beauty but their power of symbolism – there is something foreboding about black birds encircling above. Yet despite these possibilities of interpretation, the image remains overwhelmingly calm, absorbing and washing over the viewer with the haunting power of simplicity in the familiarity of what frequently surrounds us.