PDN Photo of the Day

Rural Japan in the Shadow of the Bullet Train

Seiya Bowen’s series “Nadachi” was made during a decade’s worth of summer visits to the small town in Japan where his grandparents lived. On view at Blue Sky Gallery in Portland until May 28, the images record a quiet life in a place that, like many rural communities, has emptied out as young people leave for cultural and economic opportunity in bigger cities. In everyday scenes set in muted landscapes and living spaces, Bowen finds tiny moments of grace mixed with decline—flowers droop in the window of a wooden house, a rusty knife rests on a kitchen table, dusty dishes crowd a cabinet. Residents of the town pose for outdoor portraits, isolated on the sides of roads that skirt the water or the forest or are edged by overgrown grass. Throughout the series, massive chunks of infrastructure creep into the frame. We catch glimpses of the cement pillars of a freeway overpass and the tracks of a bullet train, emphasizing the fast-paced modern life that is bypassing Nadachi. As the gallery writes about the work, “Bowen’s photographs capture the ways these two worlds, seemingly oblivious of each other, uncomfortably exist in the same landscape.” As Bowen’s grandparents’ world “gradually disappears in front of his camera lens, so does the photographer’s ability to reclaim his own identity in the rituals and culture of the area.”

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