The PhotoBook Journal

June 29, 2017

Alexandra Huddleston – East or West: A Walking Journey Along Shikoku’s 88 Temple Pilgrimage

Filed under: Book Reviews, Photo Book Discussions, Photo Books — Tags: , — Gerhard Clausing @ 7:53 pm

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Photographer:  Alexandra Huddleston (born Freetown, Sierra Leone; resides Santa Fe, New Mexico)

Publisher:  Kyoudai Press, Santa Fe, NM, © 2014

Essays:  Introduction by the photographer, as well as quotes and journal entries

Text:  English

Stiff cover, perfect-bound; 48 numbered pages with 18 color images; 8 ¼ x 7 ¾ inches; printed by Oddi Printing, Iceland

Notes:

This volume is an account of the photographer’s 2010 walking pilgrimage on the Japanese island of Shikoku (the smallest of the four main islands of Japan). There are a total of 88 (!) temples on the route, dedicated to the 9th-century Buddhist saint Kūkai (Kōbō Daishi) and connected to his life experiences. Needless to say, most of the 100,000 or so pilgrims visiting each year use various modes of transportation other than their own two feet, but Alexandra Huddleston was one of the exceptions, walking the 800 miles, as a truly dedicated pilgrim should, in order to engage in such an experience in a full physical and spiritual way.

This was the second pilgrimage for the author (after Camino de Santiago), and as she states in the introduction, her stamina and understanding of the process were greater for this second major experience. She describes her process of discovering “the joy of becoming part of a community that transcends both religion and nationality.” The work includes a series of journal entries that account for some of the tribulations as well as the joys of the experience. The images exude a great deal of tranquility and serenity while constituting a modern approach to the subject; the photographic style for the most part is lyrical rather than documentary, as is fitting for an account of such a quest for the self in a supportive context. Since the images are not encumbered by captions or explanations, we can use our own imagination as we contemplate the journey. We are invited to linger here and there, contemplate or meditate, as we behold some of the ancient monuments and their contemporary environmental details and the people that are around.

A special volume that allows us to share a special experience.

Gerhard Clausing

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