Felice Beato, Mathilde Ruinart and Giada Ripa : a conversation amongst three artists and their western vision of japan over a 150 year span ( in collaboration with Ruinart).
Rummaging through boxes long forgotten in the attic of her family house in the italian region of piedmont, Giada Ripa came across an album of old photographs, fifty-three hand-coloured albumen prints of portraits and views of the city of Yokohama and its surroundings, all in pristine condition.
The photographer is Felice Beato, the first visual narrator of 1860’s japanese society. He established himself in Japan when it had just opened its doors to the western world in a period during which the shogun had forbidden access to foreigners except as part of diplomatic missions.
For over fifty years, until the early twentieth century, Beato’s photographs of asia constituted the standard imagery used in travel diaries, illustrated newspapers, and other published accounts, and thus helped shape the “western” notion of asian society.
Coincidentally, a few months later, Giad Rip found an unpublished manuscript of mathilde ruinart, an ancestor of mine, an artist and muse to several intellectuals, who left for the orient in 1867, along with her diplomat husband, and provided a vivid description of it.
From her “carnet de voyage” and “voyage au Japon” emerges the friendship with Felice Beato which explains how the album ended up in the house.
In her role as photographer and with both an archival and anthropological approach, Giada Ripa is acting as the link between Beato’s images and the figure of Mathilde, following their respective footsteps and attempting, through her western prism, to identify local contemporary analogies, and convey the transformations of society and landscape in Yokohama and its surroundings.