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Book of the Week: A Pick by Christian Michael Filardo


Book of the Week Book of the Week: A Pick by Christian Michael Filardo Christian Michael Filardo selects Rowing a Tetrapod by Fumi Ishino as Book of the Week.
Rowing a Tetrapod. By Fumi Ishino Mack, 2017.
Christian Michael Filardo selects Rowing a Tetrapod, by Fumi Ishino, from Mack, as Book of the Week.

"Two different autographed 8x10- inch photographs of American astronaut Douglas H. Wheelock are featured in Rowing a Tetrapod, one for Fumi and one for Danelle. One bears the message, 'Aim High & Touch the Stars!' the other with the motivational phrase 'I hope all your dreams come true!'

Most humans only imagine touching stars, few have journeyed where Colonel Wheelock has. Occasionally, at work, we watch the SpaceX launches live. The way the rockets jut out into the atmosphere and land with ease has always astounded me. Like a tetrapod emerging from the watery depths touching solid land for the first time. In Rowing a Tetrapod by Fumi Ishino we attempt to decipher multiple riddles presented to us in the form of various black-and-white images. Santa holds a gun, a cloud on the horizon mimics an explosion to the port side of a large ship, a white bird curls toward itself, and a frame of the same satellite repeats.

We know that Fumi Ishino (Fumikazu Ishino) is from Japan and that he received his MFA from Yale. In Rowing a Tetrapod, it becomes fairly obvious that Ishino takes photographs from both his life in Japan and in the United States and presents them as a hybrid world. Hyper intimate despite its esoteric nature, we can infer that Ishino is trying to present what moving to America from a foreign country might be like. We are shown confusing images of a plainly clothed girl in a spacecraft cockpit, Japanese-English homework slowly revealing answers from page to page, pitched rooves and microscopes, a script sign reading 'fresh meat'. While the narrative can feel loose at times, Ishino recognizes the importance of sequencing and flexes that muscle in a subtle and masterful way in his first book. Each image feels like it has a purpose in telling the story Ishino wants to tell.

While strong sequencing is omnipresent here, that’s not to say there aren’t multiple trains of thought occurring. Occasionally, Rowing a Tetrapod can feel like a group of vignettes. The feeling of leaving and arriving seems to exist and the classic hero’s journey formula even applies at times. This causes the arc of Rowing a Tetrapod to feel fluid and very refined. Hyper-contemporary in aesthetic, the book presents us with flash, still lifes, vernacular, and esoteric imagery all working together to give Ishino his own unique dialogue. The influences are apparent but not overbearing. Both Roe Ethridge and Torbjørn Rødland seem visually present throughout and are acknowledged in the back of the book.

Ultimately, what we find in Rowing a Tetrapod is what will likely be known as a pivotal work for Ishino in the future. His vision is remarkably well thought out, crafted, and some would say masterful. At times, it feels like a Mobius strip of narrative that could just go on forever into infinity. Each image stands on its own and communicates what it needs too in order to propel Ishino’s consciousness forward. A look inside his head, Rowing a Tetrapod is the first glimpse into the mind of someone people will one day call a genius."— Christian Michael Filardo

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Rowing a Tetrapod. By Fumi Ishino Mack, 2017.
Rowing a Tetrapod. By Fumi Ishino Mack, 2017.



Christian Michael Filardo is a Filipino American photographer, curator, and composer living and working in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This year they released their second book The Voyeur’s Gambit through Lime Lodge. Currently, they help run the gallery and performance space Etiquette and write critically for photo-eye and Phroom. Filardo is the current shipping manager at photo-eye Bookstore.

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