At twelve years old I came across a book by chance. Something about it drew me in - perhaps the beautiful lettering on the spine or the lovely shade of the burgundy covers? However, the book was threateningly thick and in my early teens I thought I had better things to do than actually study a dusty old tome. The book stayed on my shelf and moved around with me for years until I opened it up as a nineteen year-old - and simply couldn’t put it down. I devoured its thousand pages in almost a single sitting.
The book was Yoshikawa Eiji’s ‘Musashi’ and it had a tremendous effect on me. More accurately, the person who’s life story the book narrated, did. Or even more precisely that person’s, Miyamoto Musashi’s, tenacity and his complete dedication to the Path he had chosen for himself.
Based on an actual, historical figure, the book narrates one version of the life of a masterless samurai, ronin, Miyamoto Musashi. He was born in year 1584 in Japan, in the now lost province of Harima, into relatively modest conditions. He was orphaned early on and spent long years of his childhood in a buddhist temple, eventually rising to fame as the most skilled swordsman of his time, taking part in over sixty duels, putting his life on the line in every one of them.
Indicative of his dedication is the way he honed his body and art to the extreme in relative isolation, for a long while only visiting “civilized society” occasionally to put his skills and progress to the test. I think it can be said with conviction that he paid an enormous price in terms of creature comforts and a social life in order to reach the heights that he did on his Path. Instead of this accomplishment making him proud and egoistic, what he found from the proverbial summit of his art was a new perspective into the arts and crafts of masters from different fields and backgrounds, including but not limited to tea ceremony, fine arts, building engineering and artisan crafts. What he managed to do was turn his own art, the base character of which is destructive and deadly and turn it into a channel through which to build, protect and appreciate fleeting beauty.
This series is the result of a pilgrimage to the life of this nearly mythical figure. First I divided his eventful journey into what I considered pivotal moments and went bearing witness to the locations around Japan where those moments had taken place. How much was the same, how much had changed? At each site, I photographed a texture which may well have remained unchanged for these past four hundred years along with a reference to Musashi’s life’s story.