New York Photo Review
NYPR Archives - 2010

Ryuji Miyamoto
After the Quake
Nagata-ku, Kobe by Ryuji Miyamoto. Source:
Ryuji Miyamoto, "Nagata-ku, Kobe" 1995

When the devastating earthquake hit the city of Kobe early in the morning of January 17, 1995, Ryuji Miyamoto had already been photographing sites of urban destruction for many years. His photographs remind the viewer of the broken promise of architecture in Japan, where the average lifespan of a building in Tokyo is only 13 years. This was especially true during the boom years of the 1980’s when Ruji Miyamoto was working to create his book “Architectural Apocalypse”.

The photographs in the show Kobe, depicts the Japanese city just after the quake. In evidence is the futility of human endeavor in the face of natural forces. The wounded buildings in his photographs exist in that eternal interval between death and renewal. In their destruction the buildings attain a distinction and inchoate natural form. The images are very haunting. The show is hung so that the devastation depicted grows as you walk along the entry corridor toward the area in the back of the small gallery where a grouping of images show the more spectacular deaths.

San -no-miya, Kobe by Ryuji Miyamoto. Source:
Ryuji Miyamoto, "San -no-miya, Kobe" 1995

It is opposite this wall where a surprising group of photograms depicting cicadas and fruit flies are displayed. The images are stark, minimal and graphically beautiful. It is in this room also where I had a chance to talk with the photographer about these new and unexpected images. Miyamoto went back to Kobe last year where he collected the insect specimens he uses. These particular cicadas sing only in the early morning, a haunting reminder of the time the destruction occurred, 5:46 AM. Cicadas, the artist earnestly informed me have an extremely short life span, only two weeks. The insects appear as white specters rising in a vertical field of black. They are symbols of nature’s gift of perpetual renewal, even if in some cases, only for a short time.

Ryuji Miyamoto
After the Quake

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Tuesday, March 9 to
Saturday, May 8, 2010
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