In 2008, Lieko Shiga announced herself on the Japanese photography scene. That year, she published two books (“CANARY,” through Akaaka, and “LILLY”) and received the prestigious Ihee Kimura Photography Award. This personal, dreamlike work was also recognized by an ICP Infinity Award. Surely, from that point on, Shiga could have gone on to work in the vein of “CANARY” to continued acclaim both in Japan and abroad. However, in 2009, she moved to Kitakama, a coastal town in Japan’s Tohoku region, where she began working as the town’s official photographer. This move marks a significant turning point for Shiga, and “Rasen Kaigan” collects this new body of work into a book.
Shiga’s photographs from Kitakama are different from her previous work in that they were produced over more than four years, in concert with the local residents. This personal connection is noteworthy, and indeed it might not be far-fetched to say that Shiga is operating more as an “organizer” than as a “photogrpher.” Yet it’s clear that “Rasen Kaigan” is Shiga’s tour de force. The images in this book call to mind many things outside the realm of photography: surrealism, land art, happenings, sculpture and the presence of Japanese “earth spirits,” to name just a few. Kitakama was severely affected by Japan’s March 2011 tsunami, and “Rasen Kaigan” acknowledges this disaster, but this is far from a book of “tsunami photos.” Years in the making, “Rasen Kaigan” affirms Shiga’s position as one of the most compelling young photographers in Japan today.
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