Japan as you've never seen it before

By Dean Irvine, CNNUpdated 27th November 2014
Evocative, unusual and perhaps a little disquieting, Asako Narahashi's photos of Japan can inspire a variety of reactions.
From coasts to rivers and lakesides, her seemingly semi-submerged photographs frame water and land as if taken by a castaway catching sight of shore, presenting a unique perspective of the country.
Since 2001 Narahashi has been using an all-weather film camera to take the series of photos that were first grouped under the title "Half Awake and Half Asleep in the Water."
Using an all-weather film camera she has traveled across Japan in all seasons, wearing a bathing suit in summer or fishing waders in winter months, and sometime taking to a boat or canoe to capture the shots.
"After much trial and error, I realized that it was better to give a sense of the water in the foreground, and gradually I took more photographs positioned as though the lens was put partially in the water," Narahashi told CNN via email.
"When I first started shooting this series, I imagined shooting all the way around Japan from the sea. But as I progressed, I felt this framework is not necessary for me, so I shoot both in Japan and other places."
Her latest book "Ever After" is a continuation of that first series and saw travel across the world shooting in new locations. But her singular views of Japan are perhaps the most captivating.
The commingling of the natural and the man-made is a consistent theme for Narahashi.
"(In Japan) nature exists within reach of people," she said. "You'll find old and new buildings or billboards and other artificial things randomly mixed along with nature. The natural and man-made are constructing landscapes while permeating each other."
But as the tsunami of 2011 illustrated to devastating effect, the natural and human worlds do not exist in harmony. The catastrophe also had a significant impact on Narahashi and her photography.
"After seeing the images of the 3/11 tsunami, knowing the scope of the disaster, it was a time when I questioned whether I could continue to shoot in the same manner as before," she said.
"Since I began the series I had been thinking that both 'fear' and 'consolation' are in my photographs in the state of being suspended in mid-air, unable to go up or down. But after 3/11, I felt like the pendulum had swung to the 'fear' side.
"The only answer I could find was to continue to take photographs. In last few years, I'm continuing to shoot in the sea but I have more occasions to shoot in rivers and lakes in (the) last few years than before."