Many of the most avid tourists haven’t visited the endangered, and in some cases never-before-photographed, spiritual sites around the world that Kenro Izu has captured for the exhibition Kenro Izu: Sacred Places. But now everyone can experience these places through the eyes of the photographer. The exhibition, which is free with museum admission, is on view July 9 through Oct. 12 at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). The DIA is the last venue on the exhibition tour.
Sacred Places is the inaugural exhibition in the newly refurbished Albert and Peggy de Salle Gallery of Photography. The space had been closed during the museum’s recent renovation. The galleries are the perfect place to showcase the more than 50 black-and-white images Izu has amassed over 30 years.
Izu is renowned for his stunningly beautiful photographs of the ancient temples in Angkor, Cambodia. In addition to images of familiar sites such as the pyramids of Giza in Egypt and the statues on Easter Island, Sacred Places also includes photographs of less well-known sacred places in Syria, Jordan, Scotland, and New Mexico. Izu made captivating images of Buddhist and Hindu sites in India, the Himalayas, Cambodia, Burma, Indonesia, Thailand, and China, which comprise the majority of images in this exhibition. Izu works hard to make sure his photographs convey the spiritual essence of these sites that have resonated over millennia with peoples of many faiths.
“Kenro Izu’s remarkable and poetic images of sacred sites from around the world are the next best thing to actually visiting them,” said Graham W.J. Beal, DIA director. “The sense of place is carefully balanced by consistency of treatment that seems to underscore the shared qualities of spiritually significant sites as well as the characteristics that give each one its own special quality.”
Izu, a practicing Buddhist, was born in Japan and lives in New York City. He has traveled extensively since 1979, sometimes battling extreme weather conditions and awaiting political permission to photograph once populated religious sites and monuments around the world. Many of these locations are now endangered from neglect, environmental challenges, or overexposure to human contact. Izu often hiked for weeks outside the reach of public transportation, taking a custom-made, 300-pound, large-format camera and very limited amount of 14” x 20” negatives. Upon reaching his destination he sought an ideal view and sometimes waited hours for perfect light conditions and air density.
In the studio, Izu printed the negatives onto watercolor paper that he hand coated with a light-sensitive solution containing platinum chloride to give images an illustrious depth. He is one of very few contemporary photographers using the platinum printing process.
Two of Izu’s books, Bhutan: The Sacred Within and Passage to Angkor, will be available in the DIA’s Museum Shop.
Kenro Izu: Sacred Places was organized and is circulated by the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem Massachusetts. All photographs are lent by The Lane Collection, courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum.
Borobudur, Java, 1996
Platinum palladium print on watercolor paper.
© Kenro Izu. Courtesy of the Howard Greenberg Gallery