In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous. --Aristotle
I am very much fascinated by the forest, enveloped in a natural and simple air. Seized by a strange sensation, I can sense the forest calling, almost beckoning me. I find myself responding to the telepathic power of the forest. Driven by this mysterious sensation, I have been continuing to take photographs.
This can probably be attributed to the fact that I am a Japanese national living in Japan where seventy per cent of the land is made up of mountains and forests. In Japan we have a long history and tradition of doing our best to preserve and even worship nature. However, it cannot be denied that the thread of co-existence that intricately binds nature and humans has been broken in contemporary Japan. The rampant urbanization of Japan reflects the global changes that are now occuring.
I personally never embraced any sense of affinity for forests during a span of forty years when I lived in the megalopolis Tokyo. Nevertheless, owing to the invaluable experience of spending the next ten years building my own lodge in the forest, my sensitivity towards nature came to be fully awakened.
Time flowing ever so gently in the forests proved to be far more pleasant than the sound of the clock ticking away. Through the experience of building a lodge with my own hands, feelings of yearning and appreciation awoke, as well as awe in the face of nature which had been lying dormant in my genes as a Japanese. These feelings which had surfaced came to be imprinted in all corners of my soul.
This led to my encounter with photography.
For me, photography is just one of Mother Nature's many wonderful blessings. Yet, it is also true that the spread of environmental destruction is making it difficult for me to pursue my photographic activities. At times, I walk for more than ten hours a day but to no avail, only to discover that the forest indicated on the map has turned into a dam construction site. Not giving up, however, I have also been fortunate to come across giant trees inside the forests. Trees which were judged to be of little use and left unfelled due to their crooked forms continued to 2 live for several hundreds of years, growing into gigantic trees.
While roaming the remote forests, I find myself more and more intrigued by “Urban Forest”. It is mostly manmade nature. Yet, even in an urban environment, we surly can find remains of human desire to live with nature is strong. New York City’s Central Park in the heart of concrete jungle is one of the typical places. There, whishing to capture the nature of nature, I tried my best to listen to the whispers of trees as I do while I am making my way through deep inside the forest.
Like a documentary film, the annual tree rings record the events that happen throughout the live of each trees. By fixating my gaze on them, I am in fact focussing on myself. And I release the shutter of my camera just once. Photographs that capture once-in-a-lifetime encounters... I have been inspired by such a style of photography. I am not the one taking the photographs, rather the nature is inducing me to take their portrait. And it is my earnest wish that these photographs of mine will never end up to be a requiem for the earth.
Takeshi Shikama turned to photography after a career in the field of design. He was drawn to forests as the subject for his large format camera.
His first photo collection was published as Mori no Hida - Silent Respiration of Forests. This project became the start of what will be a lifetime endeavor.
He trained his lens to capture the scenes of fleeting moments of all living things. He began a new body of work in five parts. Utsuroi - Evanescence: Forest, Field, Lotus, Garden and Landscape.
He began to make prints by Platinum/Palladium Printing Technique and two years later he started to use Japanese hand crafted Gampi paper for all of his prints.
He ventured out from Japan, expanding his vision to capture new locations and landscapes, working in America and in Europe. His gaze projected on manmade nature in metropolis created a new series : Urban Forests.
He received the first Jon Schueler Scholarship Award. Artist in residence at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the National Centre for Gaelic Language, Culture and the Arts in Isle of Skye, Scotland.
Mori no Hida - Silent Respiration of Forests and echoing Utsuroi – Evanescence series , Takeshi Shikama’s new photographs constitute an alternate body of work, Kansyo – Contemplation.
Bi no Tani - Valley of Beauty which were photographed in Spain and Italy. And Il Giardino Segreto (Seacret Garden) was born from his visit to Berlin in Germany and Bomarzo in Italy.
He has been photographing the images of stuffed animals in dioramas in the natural history museums and the taxidermy shop, also greenhouse plant specimens and dried seeds since 2008. He named this project as Garden of Memory - Animals, Plants, Seeds and in 2016 and 2017, created the prints wishing to hand those portraits over to the future generations.
Bibliotheque Nationale de France (Paris, France)
Hermes International (Paris, France)
Museum of Photographic Arts San Diego (California, U.S.A)
Museet for Fotokunst Brandts (Odense, Denmark)
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (Texas, U.S.A)
Santa Barbara Museum of Fine Art (California, U.S.A)
Davison Art Center, Wesleyan University (Conneticut, U.S.A)
Portland Art Museum (Oregon, U.S.A)
Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts (Yamanashi Japan)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, (California, U.S.A)
The Platinum Palladium Print
Takeshi Shikama places as much importance in the details of recording an image as the
production of the final object : the print.
He hand-prints his own work, using the platinum printing technique on a Japanese traditional paper 'gampi', handmade of gampi tree bark. Each requires hand-coating the emulsion onto the paper and contact printing the negative. This labor and mind intensive process of classic printing method reflects the intimacy and interaction that Shikama feels towards his subject matter.
A platinum/palladium print possesses a velvet-like wider range of greys. It reproduces more details than a gelatin silver print from the same negative, providing minutiae and depth to the image. The delicacy of gampi gives each print a unique artisanal and precious quality. Its specific tonality softens the black platinum without diminishing the details of each subject.
This process is archival, as these prints can last hundreds of years under appropriate conditions. The surface cannot be broken, the image does not fade in sunlight and gampi paper is resistant. The platinum/palladium print is timeless works of art.