The triple catastrophe of earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear accident of March 2011 suddenly and brutally jerked my Korean wife and me out of our familiar life in the Tokyo metropolis and catapulted us back to my small German hometown of Wunsiedel in the Northern Bavarian countryside.
After the drab concrete jungle of Tokyo and the traumatic experiences of being refugees we recovered by walking around Wunsiedel on the intimately familiar paths of my childhood, enjoying the views of the early spring landscape around us. Healing times. While walking, I got the idea to make a photo series related to the novelist Jean Paul. Jean Paul, born in Wunsiedel 248 years earlier, was in his time even more popular than Goethe or Schiller. Jean Paul was inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution. Was it a coincidence that exactly at the time of my walks around Wunsiedel people all over the world again remembered these values and fought and demonstrated for them (Arab Spring, Occupy Wallstreet Movement). Another circle closes here: Both the Arab Spring Revolutions as well as the Occupy Wallstreet Movement were directely inspired by the grassroots organized Uprising of Gwangju in 1980, which was the subject of my earlier project REMEMBERING GWANGJU.
Not only for me all these things are connected, but also Jean Paul thought, that „everything is connected with everything“, a truly Buddhist philosophical view of the world! In my photo project JEAN PAUL SOULSCAPES I wanted to contrast my secular and matter of factly images of today´s fields, lands and paths with the romantic and devine- spiritual landscapes of the novels by Jean Paul. My photographs reflect the changed perspective of nature and landscape. People do not experience nature anymore, nature only is there to be used. My photographs are devoid of humans, traces and tracks in the fields are a reference to the industrial agriculture. I hardly met any people out on a walk, only some joggers who sealed themselves off from the natural world around them with earplugs and ipods.
My series consists of 3 elements which constantly reappear as motifs: Paths, trees and the seasons. Only after comparing my photographs I realized, how often the colors of the landscape are changing. The fresh greens of summer are followed by the early browns of August, then it is green again thanks to the winter seeds, only to be dominated by hues of browns, yellows and greys during the colder months.
Matthias Ley 2013