Painting the Forest: Photographer Yoshinori Mizutani

The Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku—literally translated as “forest bathing”—is based on a simple premise: immerse yourself in the forest, absorb its sights, sounds, and smells, and you will reap numerous psychological and physiological benefits. To promote the health benefits of forest bathing, the Forest Agency of Japan launched a shinrin-yoku campaign in 1982, and since then, its popularization there has been matched by a stream of research showing that regular exposure to forest environments can indeed lower blood pressure and anxiety, reduce anger, and strengthen the immune system. As the research evidence piles up, interest in the practice of forest-bathing has gained traction far beyond Japan.

One person who has been smitten by the practice is the photographer Yoshinori Mizutani. “Nature heals me with a mysterious power,” he recently wrote to a New Yorker journalist by email. Born in the countryside, surrounded by mountains, Mizutani said that shinrin-yoku has always been a part of his daily life. In Tokyo, where he now lives and works, he takes his camera to the city’s parks and engages in a kind of photographic forest-bathing practice. His communion with nature starts at an almost cellular level. In one photo, a spindly blade of grass splits lengthwise, exposing its green connective fibres like vertebrae; in another, a marigold-colored caterpillar dangles, visible in minute detail against a smear of green leaves. His pictures are deliberately abstract, using the blur of colors and shapes to portray the forest as simultaneously idyllic and painterly.

Selected Works of Yoshinori Mizutani

Nature is not a place to visit;
It is home.

~ Gary Snyder, American poet

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