With her photobook “Bell,” Japanese photographer Eriko Koga takes the viewer on a journey into the depths of a Japanese legend and takes a close look at life and family in modern society.
In the folktale of “Anchin and Kiyohime”, which originated over a thousand years ago, a young woman named Kiyohime falls in love with the Buddhist monk Anchin. He betrays and evades her in order to continue his ascetic practice. Refusing to let go, Kiyohime pursues the monk and transforms into a giant, wrathful serpent along the way. She finds Anchin hiding inside a large bell at the Dojoji temple, wraps her body around the bell, spits fire and incinerates the bell along with Anchin. Devastated, she cries tears of blood and throws herself into a river. It is told that both reached heaven in their afterlife.
Following these themes of love, betrayal, passion, obsession, despair as well as life and death, Koga photographed her “Bell” series while imagining Kiyohime’s sorrow and hidden strength in the modern world. Her obsession, her anger, her grief overlaps with the unspoken feelings of many who brave the adversities of their daily lives; in Koga’s photographs, the background for the story is provided by grocery stores, shopping malls and riverbanks.
“Through an internal dialogue with the legend and an open but intimate observation of my family and our life together, I found myself yearning for a free, unbridled way of life, and in the process caught sight of new possibilities sprouting at our feet.” — from Eriko Koga’s afterword (included in Japanese & English translation)