Hallucinating Lenses, 2021

Hallucinating Lenses
Primarily from the Museum Collection

The English word “visionary” can be used as an adjective, meaning “hallucinatory,” “dreamlike,” or “possessed of vision or foresight,” or as a noun describing a person: “one who sees visions,” “a dreamer,” or “one with the gift of foresight and imagination.”
The word “visionary” seems at odds with the medium of photography, characterized by its ability to accurately capture the world in front of the lens. However, a great many photographs can be described as “hallucinatory,” and there are certainly photographers worthy of being called “visionaries.” Not only do such photographers exist, but indeed one might say all great photographers have no small degree of “visionary” character. When they click the shutter and capture the world before them, they perceive something invisible to others or anticipate what will happen a moment from now. This is indeed the practice of “one who sees visions” or “one with the gift of foresight and imagination.” Or perhaps it is inevitable that the camera, a “mechanical eye” that functions differently from our own, opens the door to an unfamiliar world that strikes the human viewer as strange.
In conjunction with the exhibition Ayashii: Decadent and Grotesque Images of Beauty in Modern Japanese Art, also currently on view, we invite you on a journey into the world of ayashii (mysterious, bewitching) photography.

The exhibited prints of Ravens were donated by Tomo Kosuga, the director of Masahisa Fukase Archives.