写真集「一山」
Photo book “Issan”

発行/赤々舎 (2015年)

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一山 Issan | 2009〜2013

2009年夏。"Happy maker" というアートイベントで写真展を開くため、はじめて高野山を訪れた。そして、そこで過ごした二週間は、決定的に私の心身に鳴り響き、写真家として深い意味を持つことになった。処女作『浅草善哉』を撮り終えてから、次のテーマを希求していた当時。下山して、東京の日常へ戻ってからも、どうしても高野山が心と頭から離れなかった。すでに聖域としてのイメージは世の中に十分知られている。でも、私が生で掴んだ高野山はそれとは違うものだった。継承された聖域としての面がある一方、そこにはあたり前の暮らしがあった。生き生きとした命があると同時に、見えない力が感じられた。観念を捨てた、印象のままの高野山をどう写真で表現するか。困難な道に違いない。何を撮っていいかも、何が撮れるかもまったく分からない。でも高野山に惹かれている。ただ、その気持ちに忠実になろう。そう決めて、高野山通いをはじめた。カメラ、フィルム、着替えとお土産でパンパンに膨らんだリュックを抱え、夜行バスに乗る。翌年からは山内にアパートの一室を借り、毎月一週間のペースで撮影を続けた。

「なぜそこまでして撮影に通うのか」と問われれば、「こちらが本気にならないと、相手も本気で返してくれない」と答えるだろう。人に対しても、自然に対しても、見えない力に対してもそれは変わらない。『浅草善哉』の時も同じスタンスで六年間、長屋へ通ったことを思い出す。続ける事で自分も相手も変化するし、その変化の過程にこそ驚きや成長、感動やシャッターチャンスが潜んでいる。そこを端折っては結局浅いものしか見えて来ない。対象と真剣に向き合う事、自分の心に忠実である事、続ける事、それらがものづくりの根幹にある。

自然を対象とした撮影を三年ほど続けているうちに、次第に行き詰まりを感じるようになった。写真に何かが足りない。高野山に惹かれ通い続けていられるのも、そこに暮らす人達が温かく迎えてくれるおかげだった。自分の中での決めごとが、目の前の大事なものを写真と切り離していた。そのことに気がついてから、対象を決めずに、自分が感じるものを写すようになった。『浅草善哉』で出会った老夫婦、善さんとはなさんには「人にとっての本当の幸せ」を、その存在や日常の暮らしから教えてもらった。高野山でも同じようにして、抱えきれないくらい大事なことを教えてもらっている。

結局、私にとって「写真」以前に「人」が在るのだと思う。人としてありたい。そう願う心が、自分に欠けているものを埋めるために、ある場所へ、ある人の元へ通わせるのだろう。自分が求めるものが目指す先にあって、対象の懐が深いほどのめり込んで行ける。それは信仰と同じようなものかも知れない。必死にあがくことでその都度、道が開かれる。意思を貫くには、精神的な強さと人の支えが不可欠なことも改めて学んだ。そして撮影を通じて、言葉にできない、でもまさに感じるものに「写真」として命を吹き込む。撮影、現像、暗室でのプリント作業。その繰り返しから、いつしか作品が生み出される。

高野山で誰彼ともなく口にする「お大師さまのおかげ」。ああ、これが本当の信仰というものなのだろうと、通い始めて四年目にして気がついた。2015年、空海が高野山に真言宗を開創して1200年目を迎える。『一山』に命を吹き込む事。それがお世話になった高野山への恩返しになればと願っている。

2013.2 古賀絵里子

The summer of 2009 was the first time I visited the mountain known as Koyasan. I was to exhibit some photos at an art event called Happy Maker, and the two weeks I spent there struck a decisive note in my heart and mind, eventually coming to hold a deep meaning for the photographer in me. It was just after I had finished shooting my maiden work AsakusaZenzai, and right at the time when I was reaching out for my next theme. Coming down the mountain and returning to daily life in Tokyo, I found that I just couldn't get Koyasan out of my mind. The religious significance of the mountain is well known throughout the world, but the Koyasan that revealed itself to me was something other than this. There is an everyday existence on Koyasan that resides underneath its inherited holiness, an unassuming, earthly life activity and at the same time a kind of power that is felt, unseen. I realized I must shed my preconceived notions of Koyasan and faithfully convey in photo these impressions, just as they appeared to me, and that it would undoubtedly be a difficult task. I had no idea what I should shoot or how it would turn out. However I knew I had to be faithful to this captivating feeling Koyasan bestowed upon me. And so it was decided. With my camera, film, a change of clothes and some souvenirs crammed into my rucksack, I boarded the night bus and set out on the first of many journeys to Koyasan. The following year I began renting a room on the mountain and spent a week out of each month shooting there.

If I were asked why I went to such lengths just to shoot there, I suppose I would answer that if I didn't wholly commit then I could hardly expect the mountain to reveal itself to me. This is true whether the subject is human, nature, or an unseen energy. I'm reminded of the six years I spent traveling to and from the Asakusa tenement house for AsakusaZenzai, as my attitude was the same then. By persisting at something over time, both you and your subject will undergo changes, and it is in the course of these changes that growth, surprise, emotion and shutter chances are hidden. Abbreviation or curtailment will only yield that which is superficial. Face your subject in earnest, stay faithful to yourself, keep going-these aspects are all found in the core of the creative process.

After three years of shooting nature as subject, I gradually became aware that I was reaching an impasse. My photos lacked something. During this time I was able to keep going back to Koyasan with the same initial enchantment thanks in large part to the warmth with which I was welcomed by those who lived there. I came to realize that my preconceptions were preventing the precious things before my eyes from reaching my photos. Once I realized this, I stopped predetermining my subjects, and became able to photograph what I was feeling. Through the daily lives of Yoshi san and Hana san, the elderly couple I came to know in AsakusaZenzai, I learned what really brings happiness to people. In a similar way Koyasan and its people taught me something so important that I can't yet fully grasp its worth.

In the end, people come before photos for me. My heart yearns to be genuine in my humanity. Perhaps that heart also leads me to certain places and certain people in the hope of filling in what is lacking inside myself. When what I truly seek is before me, I am able to engage my subject with much more breadth and depth.

Perhaps it's like religious belief in a way: with each episode of desperation and struggle a path opens. In order to persist with one's intentions, mental fortitude and the support of others are essential. Koyasan taught me this. I was able to capture something I undeniably felt, and in the form of a photo breathe life into that thing that cannot be expressed with words. Shooting, developing and printing in a dark room. This repetition eventually gives life to a work.

"Thanks be to the Grand Teacher"is an oft-heard expression on Koyasan. It wasn't until my fourth year of traveling there that I realized these words were more than mere lip service. 2015 marks 1200 years since the monk Kuukai established Shingon Buddhism on the mountain that has taught me so much. If I might repay all that I've been given, it would be by bringing to life my own Issan, my 'single mountain'.

2013.2 Eriko Koga