Rinko Kawauchi’s earlier books presented small and beautiful moments from everyday life. In Halo, published recently by Aperture, she explores larger and more elemental forces, in images that fall roughly into the categories of air, water and fire, and describe human and otherworldly acts of gathering together. Made in England, China and Japan, they depict rain, birds, fireworks and sun flares, building a sequence that suggests the power of hidden forces.
Off the coast of Brighton, Kawauchi photographed flocks of migrating birds that gather into dark clouds for reasons we can only guess at. “Only birds know why they behave this way,” she writes. “Their movements create the appearance of a great, shifting shadow,” like the power “brought about by being part of a great crowd.” In Hebei province in China, Kawauchi photographed a festival called Da Shuhua, in which participants throw molten iron against the stone walls of the city, creating a “poor man’s equivalent to more elaborate fireworks,” she writes, that satisfies an enduring desire for beauty. And at Izumo, Japan’s oldest Shinto shrine, she photographed a festival called Kami Mukae Sai, where bonfires are lit on the beach to welcome the gods who gather there for the month. Kawauchi shows the umbrella-holding crowds watching the fires, and turns her camera towards the sea to photograph the waves and glittering rain. In Kawauchi’s photographs, these three phenomena find a visual equivalence, each filling the sky with fragments of a greater whole. These events and traditions all take place “while searching for beauty, as if in prayer,” she writes.