From Heaven to Hell

Poet William Blake wrote about building a Hell in Heaven’s despite, and the cognitive dissonance of traveling in Japan often put me in mind of this poem of Blake’s (which also describes building a Heaven in Hell’s despair). In Japan, there’s an aesthetic that embraces remarkable beauty, and at the same time is able to create landscapes that bear a passing resemblance to Hell itself, from the vast human ant piles of the urban Japan to the industry on the shores of the Inland Sea.

Fern Forest © Harold Davis

Fern Forest © Harold Davis

Less the thirty miles apart as the crane flies, the peaceful, serene, and fern-filled landscape along the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail (above) somehow manages to reside in the same consciousness as the heavy industry in the port of Wakayama (below).

Shores of the Inland Sea © Harold Davis

Shores of the Inland Sea © Harold Davis

I photographed the image of the Fern Forest on a wet and dripping day, with the sun starting to come through the overcast skies. Everything I needed was in my backpack, and I waited for the wind to still as I used my umbrella to protect the camera on its tripod from raindrops. Exposure data: 36mm, 1/13 of a second at f/8 and ISO 400, tripod mounted.

The photograph of industry on the shores of Japan’s Inland Sea is from the “Big Tuna” ferry heading from the port of Wakayama on Honshu to Tokushima on Shikoku Island. In processing this image, I regarded the industrial landscape as a kind of abstraction, almost mirroring the kind of calligraphy sometimes used in Japan. Exposure data: 300mm, 1/800 of a second at f/8 and ISO 200, hand held.

Related: Japan category on my blog.

This entry was posted in Japan, Landscape, Monochrome.

2 Trackbacks

  1. By Best of 2015: Backwards and Forwards on December 28, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    […] In Japan, there’s an aesthetic that embraces remarkable beauty, and at the same time is able to create landscapes that bear a passing resemblance to Hell itself, from the vast human ant piles of the urban Japan to the industry on the shores of the Inland Sea. Read more. […]

  2. By First Flowers of the Decade on January 4, 2020 at 11:20 am

    […] world, as poet William Blake put it, can be found in a grain of sand, or a water drop. It can also be found in a human body, or […]

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