Spanning five continents and three decades, Kenro Izu’s Sacred Places is a body of work that looks with appreciation and melancholy upon many of humanity’s greatest architectural achievements. Izu’s travels were conducted in search of those sites and structures which were constructed for the exercise of our ever-present spiritual impulse and yearning for the cosmic. From the Pyramids in Egypt, to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, to Stonehenge in England, the obvious grandeur of these sites mixes with bewilderment at how so much could have been achieved so long ago, questions which even today we still strive to answer.
After working through the 1970s in New York as a studio assistant in the world of fashion photography, Izu experienced something of a perceptual realignment, an awakening of the senses as it were, when he first discovered the mammoth plate photographs made by English photographer Francis Frith during his excursions to Egypt in 1856 and 1857. The rich detail and elegiac tonality of Frith’s photographs captivated Izu, and in 1979 he set off to Egypt for the first time, followed soon thereafter by trips to England, Scotland, and Mexico - the outline of a project began to come into focus.
Having experimented with different cameras during his first trip, Izu found that large format was the only suitable option, and by 1983 he was equipped with a custom made camera that produced 14 x 20” negatives, a camera that was, at the time, very likely the largest portable camera in existence. In his search for a printing process that would realize the visual potential of his negatives, Izu learned of hand-coated platinum/palladium printmaking, which was first developed in the 1870’s. With the elements of his craft now able to keep pace with his creative vision, Izu was ready to create the images that comprise Sacred Places.
In his drive to capture the spirit of the places he was photographing, Izu began making progressively longer exposures, ranging anywhere from two to thirty minutes, and typically at dusk or dawn. His willingness to work through inclement weather and poor quality of light - conditions which typically act as impediments to a day’s work for a photographer - allowed him to access an expanded range of mood and atmosphere when photographing many of the most recognizable sites in the world. The ability to sidestep the conventional and the cliché allowed Izu to create photographs dense with time - the long exposures and richly detailed printmaking almost fixing the atmosphere in place.
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