In 2003, slow boat cast off from a riverbank and slowly made its way downstream. It soon reached the open sea, drifted across multiple oceans, and finally arrived in New York in 2006 by way of the German publishing house schaden.com.
Nearly all of the photos contained in twin boat were produced in the same period as those in slow boat. In this sense, the two volumes could be considered fraternal twins. Whereas slow boat (edited by myself and Michitaka Oda of Tokyo’s Sokyu-sha) is akin to an older brother, twin boat (edited by Miwa Susuda) is its little sister, at last welcomed into the world a decade later.
Ten years ago, I wrote in the afterword to slow boat that the publication might be my last collection of monochrome photographs. Since then, photography has changed dramatically. Color negative film and printing paper have been replaced with the advent of digital photography, and are on the verge of being extinguished like candles flickering precariously in the wind. At present, I still have yet to consider working with a digital camera, and might resume shooting in black and white. However, there is no undertaking as tedious as darkroom work. Preparation and cleanup take time. The increased cost of now expensive printing paper makes it uneconomical to use many sheets until the best result is attained. What’s more, prints never seem to turn out how I originally envisioned. But these tribulations are good. The time spent worrying about various details inside the darkroom is perhaps the most enjoyable and even luxurious aspect of the artistic process. I can’t imagine it any other way.
I entrusted Ms. Susuda with the entire task of editing twin boat. While I was a bit surprised by the narrative of adolescent first love that she constructed from the photographs I provided, any initial trepidation soon gave way to elation. Her unique editorial sense achieves a storyline I could not have produced on my own. I am delighted that work created long ago in my twenties and thirties in small towns in Japan has thus captured her imagination and now resonates with her contemporary existence in New York.
I earnestly hope that the publication of twin boat helps to free photography from its predestined fetters of time and place. Photographs can be born anew irrespective of any specific time or geographic locale through the individual sensitivity and interpretation of each beholder. And that means photography can possess a life of its own independent from the photographer’s original intent. I am grateful to Ms. Susuda for providing a new vessel by which to share my work. Now that it’s time to set sail, I wonder where twin boat will head once it leaves harbor. There’s no rush to arrive at our destination – let’s savor the voyage. — Koji Onaka