Photographs by Susannah Ray & Kota Sake
Curator: Stephan Apicella-Hitchcock
The Lipani Gallery
July 10–October 10, 2019
Fordham University is proud to present a new two-person exhibition of photographs in our Lipani Gallery by Susannah Ray and Kota Sake. Upon immediate inspection, the images by these two photographers could not be any more different in terms of content, style, process, or presentation. However, upon closer inspection, a certain resonance begins to emerge between the two bodies of work.
Both evidence a clear dedication to exploring and documenting their respective topics over an extended period of time. As well, each selection of photographs examines how we utilize our free time, pursue our pleasures, and engage with our passions and pastimes. On the most direct level, both bodies of work clearly have something to do with water; however, none of these possible interpretations quite nails their connection down solidly. This ambiguity should serve as an invitation to come to visit the gallery and see the individual bodies of work, as well as an enticement to ponder their linkages.
This exhibition could be seen as a classic summer gallery show aimed towards pleasing the crowds—in this case, with surfers and animals. Nevertheless, beneath the initial hook of breezy, summer reading are numerous aspects of a more nuanced and provocative nature.
In the fall of 2004, following my growing obsession with maritime weather models, cold-water wax, and 7mm neoprene mittens, I began documenting surfing in New York City. My life as I knew it had succumbed to my constant urge to surf, and it became clear to me that my photography would suffer from neglect if I did not begin to document the new passion that occupied most of my waking thoughts and many of my dreaming ones.
The project title, Right Coast, is a nickname for the East Coast that not only indicates its location on the continental US, but also asserts an underdog's dreams of superiority. Surfing on the right coast, particularly in New York City's Rockaway Beach, lacks most of the lifestyle and allure of West Coast surfing. Yet making up for the dearth of good weather, consistent waves, and beautiful surf spots is a community that has a surfeit of heart, dedication, and soul. Or in a word, aloha.
In the fall of 2012, less than a year after I concluded this series, Hurricane Sandy devastated Rockaway Beach, forever altering the landscape and our relationship to the sea. These photographs have become a testament to halcyon days, to a way of life lost, and to a life regained.
Chances are that at any given moment millions of digital pictures of unbearably cute animals are being uploaded to the Internet for viewing and pleasurable consumption. Second probably only to adorable baby pictures, cute animal pictures no doubt pervade our consciousness as we go about surfing the Internet, paying bills, and generating various status updates.
So, in looking at Kota Sake‘s traditional, gelatin silver photographs of animals one must ask why they seem so unfamiliar, resolutely not cute, and at times tragically strange. Considering that we are constantly exposed to such creatures online, in calendars, and in physical form at the zoo, it is an admirable achievement to transform something seemingly familiar into something otherworldly and mysterious.
Suspended in the netherworld of zoo tanks, these creatures glide, drift, sink, and loiter, isolated and mostly indifferent to our presence. There are no Technicolor creatures singing cheerful or cautionary songs for our education and pleasure. Theses creatures exist purely outside of our realm of understanding.
Images: Susannah Ray, On the Jetty, 2005 (L), Kota Sake, Messengers, 2019 (R)