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Antone's Picks: Nirai by Manabu Someya

Copyright Manabu Someya, from the book Nirai

Japanese Publisher Toshei-Sha has recently published several fantastic books. One book of particular note is Manabu Someya’s Nirai, which explores the photographer’s personal perspective on the folklore of the otherworldly island Nirai Kanai. Nirai Kanai is a world that exists beyond the ocean, part of the local legend from the Japanese islands of Ryukyu. Some believe Nirai Kanai is the island where the gods exist and is the origin of happiness and fertility.

Copyright Manabu Someya, from the book Nirai

Copyright Manabu Someya, from the book Nirai

Someya explains, “Folklorist and poet Shinobu Orikuchi once wrote that Nirai Kanai is a place where the spirits of the dead head toward. I prefer this way of thinking. Whenever I gaze at the sea, I also tend to visually hallucinate Nirai Kanai as the world where my spirit will go one day.”

Copyright Manabu Someya, from the book Nirai

Nirai is Someya’s attempt to communicate that as living beings death does not exist at the end of life, but coexists with life. The photographs in this book show Nirai Kanai as more than ancient folklore, but as a real place we all are a part of and coincide with as we go about our daily life. And while the concept of Someya’s book may seem far out there for the limitations of photography, the photographs themselves are successful in that they are simply great photographs. Landscapes, still-life, and portraiture mix appropriately - telling a fascinating story of personal exploration.

As mentioned above, Toshei-Sha has a few other excellent books out as well. Yasuwo Tsuji’s The Dancing Night displays a lucid journey of street photography and poetry.

copyright Yasuwo Tsuji, from the book The Dancing Night

Aki Tanaka’s Sunshine Pulse is also a simplistic and beautiful book consisting of soft focus and cherry blossoms.

Copyright Aki Tanaka, from the book Sunshine Pulse

Be sure to read Nicholas Chiarella’s upcoming review of Sunshine Pulse in photo-eye Magazine.