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Life Works
by Shun Kataoka

This place is a garden my maternal grandfather has been cultivating to grow flowers and crops since he moved from the countryside 50 years ago. He started when he was an active member of society in his 40s and it became a garden like any other, with rows of potted plants, weeded areas, and water sprinkled everywhere. However, once my grandfather passed the age of 80, this place began to change.

The dense green of this single garden knows no limits, and over the seasons withers and grows and continues to produce constant change and intersection. I feel as though I’m leaping into the unknown every time I visit this confined space, almost like I’m landing on another planet with no idea of what will happen next. I am fascinated by this place, and I am filled with an irrepressible sense of curiosity when surrounded by its overwhelming colors and overflowing branches and leaves. I have continued to photograph this place, and until this curiosity is satisfied the urge to press the shutter will never leave me.

There’s something else that I noticed since I started visiting 5 years ago. It has to do with the green that seems to fill the eyes of the person in front of me and grows with unbridled intensity. It has to do with the source of this power.

Walking through this garden, it is impossible to avoid plants that brush by my feet, my shoulders, and my stomach. This growth is a result of my grandfather’s declining health and thus serves as an expression of his presence. The small conversations we have with every visit, the way he seems to be remembering the work that still needs to be done in the yard, these small moments create a larger picture of his current condition. “I haven’t been in the garden for almost a month.” “The harvest season has already passed.” Selfish cohabitants fill pots where seeds were planted and envelope the surface of the soil. Tomatoes, cucumbers, and bitter melons are bursting. Spiders have spun their webs across the path and ivy crawls beneath my feet. The balance between untamed botanical growth and my grandfather’s hands was reversed at some point. The intersection of life that began here as mere seeds 50 years ago has steadily approached like the ripples of the ocean. With every season of blooming these waves grow a little more.

I was drawn by the simple appeal of the foliage here, but it hides a much more somber accumulation of time. Green, the color of vitality, has an inescapable grasp on my heart. But this color is also telling me, through its vividness and density, about my grandfather’s present.

Shun Kataoka  lives and works in Kyoto, Japan.
To view more of Shun Kataoka's work, please visit his website.