The islands of Naoshima, Teshima, and Inujima in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea are places of pilgrimage for friends of contemporary art and architecture. Alongside works in public spaces and site-specific installations, the islands also feature numerous museums and collections of contemporary art. They are home to buildings by architects such as Kazuyo Sejima and Ruye Nishizawa (SANAA), Tadao Ando, and Hiroshi Sambuichi, as well as works of art by Richard Long, Christian Boltanski, and Mariko Mori, among many others.
The book Insular Insight offers a comprehensive documentation of this unique cultural landscape surrounded by Japan’s inland sea. The photographs by the Dutch photographer Iwan Baan that move between tiny details and grand panoramas create a comprehensive portrait of the islands and their fluid transitions between nature, art, and architecture.
In November 2014 Dutch photographer Charlotte Dumas started portraying the native horses of Japan, visiting Nagano prefecture for the Kiso horse, a breed that was almost wiped out on orders of the old Imperial Army During the Meiji era (1868 -1912) who ‘wanted to improve the breed’ of Japanese cavalry horse. All but one of the eight still existing breeds remain in very low numbers. Confined to small islands most breeds have never been able to migrate. In some cases they have become the emblem of their location like the Yonaguni horse that is depicted together with the world largest moth-also native to Yonaguni- and the marlin on the manhole covers of this small and most Southern island of Japan.
North Brother Island is among the most unexpected of places: an uninhabited island of ruins in New York City that hardly anyone knows; a secret existing in plain sight. It is both part of the city and a world apart from it. Its twenty acres sit low in the East River, just north of Hell Gate, with a dozen buildings in various states of decay. As there is no public access, it’s most easily seen as you lift off the tarmac at LaGuardia or as you drive up the New England freeway through the Bronx.
North Brother Island came into prominence in the late 19th century, when public health issues of an exploding population regularly made headlines. Like other islands in the harbor, it was perfectly suited as a buffer against contagions, and from the 1870s through the 1930s it was used primarily as a quarantine hospital (the infamous Typhoid Mary was confined there). After WWII it provided a temporary home for veterans, and from the 1950s it was used as a juvenile drug treatment center until its closure in 1963. Over the years, new uses have been proposed for the island, but by and large it has been forgotten. Thanks to a threatened species of shorebird, the black-crowned night heron, North Brother has been designated as conservation land, to protect nesting grounds for the herons, which have unwittingly helped to preserve the island’s forgotten fragments of New York’s history.
Since 2008, with permission from the NYC Parks Department, Christopher Payne has been one of a few photographers allowed on the island, and his photographs comprise a comprehensive record of the buildings and its evolving landscape over many seasons.