About the project

What if Thoreau had been a photographer?

Koichiro Kurita launched the Beyond Spheres project in 2010 and it is a logical extension of his continuing search for an answer to the question. The aim of this project was, and is, to give pictorial form to Thoreau's ideas and writings by employing the methods used by his contemporaries, photography pioneer William Henry Fox Talbot. In homage to Thoreau and Talbot, Kurita has creates handmade photography with the same depth of thought and reflection on man's coexistence with nature in this project. This approach provides a unique opportunity to experience Thoreau's philosophy of man's relationship to nature in visual form and to demonstrate the value of photography made by hand in these times of accelerating change.

"I have two mentors. One is Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), who urged a re-experience of the relationship between nature and humans. The other is William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877), who taught what photography is. Beyond Spheres is about my visual journey which in its conclusion, will be an address of gratitude to my two mentors whom I have never met."

Photographing the World of Walden

During the 2nd phase of Beyond Spheres (2014-2015), I relocated from Eastern Long Island, NY to the area around Concord MA so that I could photograph the world of Walden. It was here that Thoreau built his cabin and lived for two years, two months and two days; an experience that led him to write Walden, the masterpiece that has inspired readers for so many year. Thoreau's insights, based on close observation of nature, continue to provide a valuable guide for us in today's fast-paced world.

 

The Concord-Merrimack Watershed

From October 2015 through 2016 the Beyond Spheres project explored remote and hidden sites along the Ipswich, Concord, Assabet, Sudbury and Merrimack Rivers, retracing portions of the 1839 journey chronicled in Thoreau's book A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.  As many of the shooting locations were accessible only by canoe, this new series of photographs of terrain “less traveled" is sure to yield images of exceptional beauty. In cooperation with Massachusetts Audubon Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, we were able to do exploring, photographing and developing negatives on location.

The Creation Process

Handmade Photography with Calotype (Talbotype)Paper Negatives

Kurita has chosen to work with Calotype, an early photographic process, invented by William Henry Fox Talbot in 1841, in which a paper negative is produced and then used to make a positive contact print in sunlight. The Calotype emulsion requires processing just before exposure and development and must be done on location. This process, which preceded the glass plate and subsequent film technologies, is a slow process and its unique beauty is closely aligned to the nature of paper. Once the negatives are created they are placed against albumen or salted print paper, and contact printed with the sun. Kurita currently has about 50 images printed in the size from 8"x10" to 20"x32". Kurita will create more work for upcoming exhibitions as well as a planned fine edition book.

William Henry Fox Talbot published The Pencil of Nature (1844–46), which was illustrated with original salted paper prints from his calotype negatives. It was the first commercially published book illustrated with photographs.

The Artist

Koichiro Kurita

Koichiro Kurita studied perceptual psychology and used camera for his experimental research when he was a college student. The American writer, poet, philosopher and naturalist Henry David Thoreau has been a great inspiration to Koichiro Kurita since he read Walden in the mid of 1980's. His encounter with this book set him on a new path, he gave up his career of commercial photography and he has been working with nature landscapes for more than 25 years. In the early 1990's Kurita came to the United States on a grant from the Asian Cultural Council Foundation, created by John D. Rockefeller 3rd to encourage international dialogue between artists and scholars in Asia and the United States. Kurita has continued his exploration of what Thoreau described as "the harmonious relationship between nature and humanity".

Koichiro Kurita with his 8 x 10 large format view camera near Walden, Concord MA

Kurita's works have been exhibited and collected internationally by numerous galleries and museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Harvard Art Museums, the Museum Fine Arts, Houston, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Maison Europeenne de la Photographie, the Biblioteque Nationale de France, Paris, Tokyo Fuji Art Museum and many others.

Upcoming Events

April 23, 2017 // 5 to 6pm
A Foot on Terra Firma: Poetry Reading
Griffin Museum of Photography

Contact Us

Thank You!

Thanks to the generosity of people who supported the project activities And to galleries and institutions such as the North Fork Audubon Society, NY, Waterfall Arts, ME, Bennington College, VT, the Rhode Island School of Design, RI, Tenri Cultural Institute, NY. Massachusetts Audubon Society/Ipswich, MA and the Farnsworth Art Museum, ME. With your generous support, we are able to proceed with the various and ongoing phases of this project. Since 2010 this project has also had fiscal sponsorship from the New York Foundation for the Arts.  

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