Memory is not a storage unit collecting dust. It is an active construction site where we build our sense of self and find direction. We hope that when we are gray and less active, we feel that we have adequately used the blueprint of past experiences to create a life we feel pleasure looking back on. A 109-year-old woman named Emilia Tereza Harper once reflected on this feeling in an interview, “Life Lessons from 100-year-olds”. She was one of several centenarians asked whether there was any unfinished business in their lives. Emilia replied:
I don’t think there’s anything left I really need to do because I’ve done practically everything I ever wanted. I’ve got beautiful memories. I can live happily forever after because of all of my lovely memories.
When Tokyo-based photographer Andrew Faulk was commissioned by Tatler Homes Philippines to create a photo essay for their issue on mid-century modern design, like Emilia, memories are all he had to work with. In the height of the pandemic, with Japan on lockdown, Andrew found himself unable to travel to generate new material for the project. There was nowhere to go but into the digital archive of his own memories. In the process, as he confronted what life had once been and what it might become, he found, just as Emilia did, a source of great joy in experiencing again what he had already seen.
Tatler Homes editor-in-chief Stephanie Zubiri had kept Andrew in mind since their collaboration on a piece in 2020 for Travel and Leisure Southeast Asia. When the theme of mid-century design arose for a forthcoming issue of Tatler Homes, Stephanie reached back out, knowing the sense of space and clean lines in Andrew’s work would be a good fit for the issue. He was given the reins on a regular section in the magazine called Travel Notes.
Travel Notes is an 8-10 page photo essay about a location and/or theme. Tatler Homes turned these pages over to me, giving me the opportunity to either shoot or create anything I wanted as long as the content was on theme.
Confined to his house, with regular life upheaved, Andrew had to be innovative. While some were using the time at home to rearrange their furniture, Andrew realized this was an opportunity to organize his photo archives, and in so doing, found the material for his essay.
I realized I have a massive Japan-based catalog of work that should not be sitting in a digital graveyard.
Using outtakes from his travels in Japan, Andrew began to piece his work together. Like so many of us, the pandemic altered Andrew’s way of life as he knew it. His sense of normalcy was suddenly up for debate. Nothing was screwed in. This commission facilitated a way to be comfortable with the unknowable future. By piecing bits of his past experiences together, Andrew was experimenting with what would come next.
With jobs and flights canceled, family schedules in disarray, I have largely given up trying to have any sort of control over life. At the very least, I have learned to manage my own career expectations, I have learned to ask, ‘What else is possible.’
Andrew discovered that in exploring his archives, he had found a way to thrive under the circumstances. Like Emilia, reliving his memories while bound to his home was a way to live again.
The Tatler commission, and now ongoing project, is a way to utilize what I already have at my disposal in a way that simply brings me enjoyment. By archive-rummaging, I get to travel again to the places that I have not had the ability to see over the past couple of years. I get to relive my travels and assignments that brought, and still bring me joy.
With three weeks to finish the project, Andrew considered what the subject of his essay would be.
I thought about Matisse and Georgia O’Keeffe. I mused on the characteristics of mid-century art – color palette, form, etc. Then I thought of Isamu Noguchi and his impact on mid-century design and art. After taking a deep dive into Noguchi’s work, I decided to use his brilliance as inspiration for the Tatler Spread.
Isamu Noguchi was an artist and landscape designer, known for his sculptures and furniture design. Pieces such as his Akari lamps and Noguchi table are still in production today. He believed that anything, no matter the material, could be sculpture. In Andrew’s photo essay, he pays homage to this philosophy by creating photographic sculptures.
In the end, Dear Isamu is a tribute to Noguchi, a Japanese-American artist renowned for his liberating and organic aesthetic. The Japan-based photo essay is inspired by Noguchi’s peacefully-structured contributions to the mid-century design movement.
One of Isamu Noguchi’s most enduring sayings is “we are a landscape of all we have seen,” a quote highlighted in Andrew’s tribute. While in lockdown, in what felt like a halted, purgatorial state, all we had was time to reflect on what we had seen, when life was a different way. Behold, the visual representation of Andrew’s memory, the collage of all he has seen. In sculpting photographs of his past together, Andrew was taking stock of his life, and in so doing, was unknowingly sculpting a new life.