"I walk through these cities, camera in hand, capturing multi-facetted views that I then combine, one by one, in accordance with my memories, arranging them into a map that portrays all the singular aspects of the place."
Sohei Nishino’s enduring fascination with map-making has taken a new direction in his most recent projects, which bring his cartographic vision to bear upon places which have traditionally defied definition on paper. His signature photo-collage technique pieces together thousands of images taken over the course of his travels, to construct dioramas of complex geographies which integrate human and physical landscapes. Moving beyond his earlier work in urban environments, Nishino has most recently travelled to Mount Everest, and to the sea which runs between northern Japan and eastern Russia, taking on some of the world’s most challenging environments.
Nishino’s Everest draws inspiration from the maps used traditionally by pilgrims to navigate holy sites. Fascinated by the historical significance and symbolism of Everest, Nishino shot almost 400 rolls of film during his 23 day journey from Lucla to Gokyo Peak. He relates this intense journey through the Himalayas to those undertaken by sherpas and other local people who call the mountain home. Instead of following a linear course to a fixed destination, as many of visitors to Everest do, Nishino captures his experience of the road from a dense and meticulously planned variety of vantage points. Whilst Nishino continues to explore his interest in the relationship between people and their environment, his map of Everest illustrates an intense engagement with this harsh geography, and the ways that it shapes the lives of local populations. Nishino has described this project as one of the toughest periods of shooting, and in its unprecedented scale and use of colour it stands apart from his other work to date.
To create Journey of Drifting Ice, Nishino started out from the extreme north-eastern tip of Japan, on Hokkaidō’s Shiretoko peninsular. Fascinated by the drift ice, which expands across Shiretoko’s seas, he began to research the science behind these colossal formations and the remarkable journey ice floes travel from Russia’s great Amur River through to the Sea of Okhotsk before arriving in Japanese waters. Nishino observes the drift ice as a naturally occurring transnational phenomenon, acting as a prescient appeal to our divided global society. In the light of the environmental crisis, Nishino’s mapping of these disappearing geographical features is charged with additional urgency; the landscape of these long unchartered waters is changing rapidly, and Nishino’s photography takes stock of both the ice floe’s evolving position and the integral necessity of its ecosystems to the diverse communities which rely upon them.