"...we might...find ourselves residing in the eye of the Spirit, the Beauty in the eye of the Beholder, delivered unto the luminous Kosmos that…is the extraordinary Artwork of our own highest self."

Ken Wilber, The Eye of Spirit

 

two blind men crossing a log bridge

 

1995

      and my wife presented me with an ultimatum: go with her back to Japan or not but, with me or without me, she was going to boogie. Her father, widowed and aging, was sinking fast and needed her care. She had been in America for fifteen years and was worn out by it; the crime, the relentless egoism, the lack of civility, the random racism, the chaos seemingly so close to the surface, the obscene wealth contrasted against the desperate poverty, and speaking English. She had been a rock but she was beat. We took the kids and flew west to the East.
      For me, this meant leaving a chairman's position, a secure teaching job and access to the darkrooms and chemicals that make photography, which had been my passion and claim to fame, possible. I was 'middle-aged' but knew we had to make this leap or there would be no more 'we'. I was also fascinated by the possibilities of the Internet as a place to do work and show that work almost simultaneously. I had started writing poetry and doing digital self-portraits and saw this break as a chance to push this work forward.
      The buzzwords are 'reinventing yourself'. They slide so trippingly off the tongue but the truth is much more like the Hakuin painting above; like a blind man crossing a log bridge. Embracing the continual need for change, the destruction after the construction, the perilous groping in the dark; scary!
      But being in Japan allowed me to continue my study of Aikido, which was a great joy and an unrelenting challenge. It also put me in the position to follow the breadcrumbs through the forest of the Internet and web-based work to Jon Cone’s work with ink and Epson printers, John Paul Caponigro’s Photoshop explorations and my own fascination with Japanese papers. My time at the Awagami Paper Factory in Tokushima was life altering.


2011

      I am happy with what I was able to get done while I lived in Japan but I have since left for a teaching position in Singapore. I am now at Nanyang Technological University in the School of Art, Design and Media. The art school is new. We have graduated the three groups of students. Being part of a new program is interesting especially considering the revolution photography is experiencing. Singapore is a challenge as there is almost no tradition of photo art making here. Getting materials is daunting. The climate is not kind to paper. But, the students are open and enthusiastic and are really doing amazing work.
         My own work is going well…knock wood. I have an Epson 7880 in my office/studio. I recently jumped into the deep end of the digital photography pool by buying a Leica M 9. Prior to that all my work was from scanned film. It is an interesting change but the least I could do as my students are using Phase One and Leaf backs on Hasselblads. I also have a big Epson 10600 that I have swaped out the color ink for a K6 set from Jon Cone. Amazing black and white quality!
         I was a Master Printer for the first two International Photography Exhibitions here in Singapore. I also did the same job for an exhibition at the Singapore Art Museum. I have taught workshops at the Epson Center here. There was some talk about me becoming an Epson Master Printer (sort of like being a Bishop of Inkjet Printing) but my work wasn’t “corporate” enough. I have recently published a book, "Two Fish, Out of Water". It is from the pictures I did while I lived in Kobe and Okayama, Japan. Some of the images are in the gallery a bit deeper into this site. You can buy the book buy sending me an email, or by getting in touch with the bookstore Books Actually. There will be a bit of shipping but it will end up costing about US$ 30. Cheap! Support the maker...
         My two sons are doing well. At this iteration, the oldest one (Issaku) has finished his PHD work at LSU in geology and climbing mountains.He is doing his Post-Doc at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena. For him it is really rocket scinece. The young one (Jiro) is in NYC and continues to work MTV producing, writing and directing for their TV shows, mostly hip-hop realted. Izumi is doing some very interesting mono-prints and is now teaching part time at NTU. I love this work of hers.
         So, still the blind man crossing the log bridge…no end in sight. Enjoy this work…

 


 

Contact information:
Paul Kohl
Nanyang Technological University
Art, Design and Media
81 Nanyang Drive
e-mail;paulkohl@ntu.edu.sg
tel: 65-9654-9305 (Singapore)


Back to cover