Japan Drug (Pierre von Kleist Editions), the latest book from photographer António Júlio Durte is a return to pictures taken in 1997 during a three month stay in Japan.
17 years have passed, a considerable amount of time according to today’s standards, and yet the pictures evoke a very familiar and contemporary sense of placelessness, and not, as one might expect, of nostalgia.
People are often pictured backwards or from a safe distance, reminding us of the impossibility of intimacy on an estrange land. They do not let us forget that these are the images of a foreigner, of an outsider, and, ultimately, of someone who walks alone.
The quiet pace of this work rests upon the dichotomy between the strange, often subtly raised through the animals depicted (see the schoolgirls under a giant wale) and the absence of action, of something immediately astonishing. The remarkable is found on the everyday life, recognizable but never fully understood: the striped suit of a diver, the never-ending signs that cannot be grasped, people sleeping in awkward positions, the peculiar present in small details of urban architecture.
The sense of unease is present from the first page (a large snake resting in the shadows) and never disappears. We move through the images led by the gentle balance between the real and the unreal, between the recognizable and the alien.
The words of António Júlio Duarte are presented to us only in the end: ‘It was 1997 and the new millennium was imminent, one could feel the tense anticipation about what was to come next. I was alone in Japan, a place I had never been before. During the day I would go out looking for my own sense of the place, photographing, exploring notions of centre, a place of convergence, as the world expanded before me in its uncertain course.’
Japan Drug can be purchased here.