I apologize in advance for not providing a single specific photo or even a small selection of photos for this discussion. The nature of the subject seemed to defy all of my efforts to narrow down the selection. And last week's Brassai discussion seemed to fare well as a general observation of his work along with specific examples provided by participants. I also apologize for the length. To paraphrase Twain, I didn't have time to write it shorter. --LJ It is difficult to discuss an individual photograph from "The Solitude of Ravens" apart from the context of Masahisa Fukase's life itself as well as his best known artist's monograph, described in 2010 as "his most powerful work, and a kind of epitaph for a life that has been even sadder and darker than the photographs suggest." That same year the British Journal of Photography cited "Ravens" as the best photo book in the past 25 years. And it is equally difficult to discuss the book in context because it is damned expensive, even in the third printing softcover version. Yet, like the best music albums, with each track carefully arranged to convey the musicians' desired intentions, it helps to get a sense of the flow of the images in the book. There's a small sampling of a few of the most familiar photos attached to The Guardian article. But those don't encompass the full range of images included in the book, not all of which are of ravens yet remain faithful to the sense of alienation that seems to reflect Fukase's inner life during that era. For those reasons, I'd suggest viewing this short 3:30 video, which offers a page-through view of "The Solitude of Ravens". The video itself is a bit more artsy than the usual page-through videos. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hx4FhAljFnE) The photographs vary in technique and subject matter, adhering only to a general core aesthetic of gritty, contrasty black and white. They also seem to show the influence of the "Provoke" era of Japanese artistic photography, which often showed a deliberate disregard for conventional concerns about technically correct or optimal printing technique. Some photos appear to employ conventional printing techniques. In others, Fukase appeared to have enlarged a tiny portion of the negative to emphasize the grain (and, perhaps, to eliminate unwanted or distracting objects). Still others show obvious dodging/burning halos and glowing outlines almost comparable to Mackie Lines. Out of context one can imagine the unimaginative drudge of a judge schooled in conventional camera club or salon techniques marking up these "mistakes" in red crayon. Yet in the context of the Provoke era such techniques were part of an aesthetic that appeared in prints by Moriyama and other associates. But do those technically "flawed" photos stand on their own, apart from any context or knowledge of the photographer? There is no official website, and many of his photos are reproduced on blogs and websites with links that may be broken a year from now. One of the better analyses, published in 2006 on the Photo Book Guide website, has already fallen off the active web and is stored courtesy of the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. For a sampling of the variety of photos displayed in the book, see the Google image cache, most of which are from "Ravens", juxtaposed against a few from his other less somber works. "The Solitude of Ravens" seems a curious translation of "Karasu" (which may translate as crow or raven), the original title. Curious, in part, because corvidae - ravens and crows - are social birds. Yet almost every culture has imbued the crow and raven icons with similarly eerie mythical characteristics. We choose to disregard the social nature of the real crow or raven and characterize him as a harbinger, an avatar, impish and troublesome at best, a fearsome omen at worst. Perhaps the publisher felt the English speaking viewers needed some help in interpreting the monograph that became Fukase's best known work. The photographer could not speak for himself to enlighten or appease curious fans. He spent the last 20 years of his life in a coma. Reportedly his most faithful visitor was the woman whose decision to divorce Fukase had contributed to the darkness that resulted in his most notable oeuvre. Additional notes: While pop culture has embraced Fukase as the iconic lonely tortured artist, the role assigned to him by posterity seems to have overlooked his whimsical side, which produced the photo books "Bukubuku" (Bubbles) of self portraits in the bathtub; and "Sasuke, My Dear Cat" and "The Strawhat Cat" of his pet. One wonders whether - had he not spent the entire web generation unconscious - he might have embraced social media, posting amusing selfies and cat pix as many of us do. Pop culture allusions: Twa Corbies - traditional Scottish folk song. At the end of the official video for Mazzy Star's "Fade Into You", ravens or crows can be seen around utility pole. Fitting imagery for Hope Sandoval's weeping willow vocals. Links: "Masahisa Fukase's Ravens: the best photobook of the past 25 years? Brooding and shatteringly lonely, the Japanese photographer's series on ravens has been hailed as masterpiece of mourning" --The Guardian, May 2010 Utata article on Fukase "Sasuke, My Dear Cat" by Fukase Video page-through of "Ravens" "Bukubuku" (self portraits in the water) Finally... Until last autumn I'd only encountered the name Masahisa Fukase on photo.net and elsewhere, usually in reference to generalized discussions about styles or themes. But I didn't remember having seen his photos before September 15, 2013. I remember the date because that's when another photo.netter remarked on the similarity of one of my themes to Fukase's. I don't know how I managed not to have seen his photos. The effect was jarring, like looking into a mirror and seeing, not my own reflection, but myself as a ghosted image of another artist's work. A couple of years ago, feeling stuck in a rut, I had begun to explore a theme that was new to me. I called it Skaiku, as a play on words (sky and haiku). I took the first photos in that theme on June 20, 2012, unaware of Fukase's death in June 2012 after 20 years in a coma.