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The Frozen Constellations of Ryota Kajita


A Japanese photographer captures bubbles trapped in the ice, universes of beauty and mystery.

Without knowing the sizes of that which is portrayed in the work of Ryota Kajita, the images can appear like solar systems and planets, sometimes orbited by moons of white. The series Ice Formations is a collection of photographs of the patterns formed in the ice of frozen rivers, ponds, and lakes in the vicinity of Fairbanks, Alaska. The formations range in size between 25 and 75 centimeters, and were photographed at the beginning of winter, when they’re most common.

Over eight years, Kajita sought out such structures as arise when methane gas and carbon dioxide in water become trapped within the ice. Methane, one of the causes of the greenhouse effect, is a subject of interest to scientists studying climate change, something which has also interested the photographer in his approach to these oddities in ice. Their geometries are short lived because the snow quickly covers them – and this explains their marvelous quality.

For such natural designs to exist at all, the snow must fall into the water, freeze, thaw and then re-solidify. The air vapor freezes and forms ice crystals. Kajita’s photographs, in black and white, are retouched with colors to highlight the patterns trapped in the ice and these appear like a mirror of the cosmos and, simultaneously, like a photograph taken with a microscope.

Exhibited in a gallery, Kajita prints the images in actual size, and places them onto light boxes on the floor. This allows him to emulate the experience of discovering each formation, on the surfaces of frozen, enigmatic wells.

It’s just possible to get lost within the indecipherable language shown in Kajita’s photographs. Their fleeting structures, while existing only briefly and with some infinite elegance (and thus, much of their poetry), bear also a message. It’s one which brings the viewer ever closer to the mysterious reality of nature and its processes.

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