Many have felt the call to explore the Maine woods after reading about Henry David Thoreau’s forays therein, but some have farther to go to get here. For photographer and master printer Koichiro Kurita, reading Thoreau caused a course change in both profession and geography.

On Thursday, Oct. 20 at 7 p.m., Kurita will share some the results of that shift at Waterfall Arts Belfast, 256 High St., where his show “Meditations on Thoreau” runs through Nov. 23. He will be joined in the center’s Clifford Gallery by Ed Earle, curator at the International Center for Photography in New York. Admission at the door will be $7, free for students.

For many years, Kurita, who was born in Manchuria and educated in Japan, enjoyed a successful career in Tokyo as a commercial photographer. Then he read Thoreau and found the 19th-century American surprisingly close to the Asian approach to nature.

“I encountered ‘Walden’ when I was a commercial photographer, and I was moved by his absolute freedom and thoughts of nature,” he said by email a week before his Waterfall Arts talk.

So moved, in fact, that Kurita gave up his commercial work and headed into the mountains of Japan to start photographing nature. In 1990, he received a grant from the Asian Cultural Council that enabled him to concentrate on his artistic interests. That led to his exhibiting in the United States, where his images can now be found in the collections of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts; the George Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y.; New Jersey’s Princeton Art Museum; and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts; as well as the Biblioteque Nationale de Paris and the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum, among others.

In 1993, Kurita and his wife Machiko moved to the U.S. They live in New York but of late have been spending time in Maine, thanks to his ongoing Beyond Spheres project documenting the footsteps of Thoreau in Maine and west to the Great Lakes. For Beyond Spheres, Kurita is not only photographing the locations Thoreau visited during his travels some 160 years ago, he also is using the equipment and methods of Thoreau’s day such as view cameras, paper negatives and calotype/talbotype printing.

“I would like to photograph precisely and would like to create it as much with my own hand as possible, like a painting,” he said of the choice, adding “I do not use it reminiscently but rather as a new method.”

Indeed, using view cameras — the large-format cameras with “accordion” bellows that date back to the days of daguerreotypes — and such antique processing techniques are “new” to most in the 21st century, but there is an opportunity to engage with them this month at Waterfall Arts. Friday through Tuesday, Oct. 21 through 25, Waterfall Arts is holding four workshops in conjunction with “Meditations on Thoreau.” Kurita will teach both an introductory and master class in platinum/palladium printing; Jonathan Kline of Bennington College will teach a workshop on calotype, a process introduced in 1841 by William Henry Fox Talbot; and Anna Strickland will teach gum bichromate in a workshop that covers a number of subjects including cliché verre and archival processing.

Strickland, who has taught antique and alternative photography processes for more than 20 years at the Rhode Island School of Design, lives in Belfast now and it was her suggestion that brought Kurita to Waterfall Arts.

“She thought his work, interest in nature and Thoreau would be a good fit. She’s studied with him and feels he is a master printer of these antique processes,” said Waterfall Arts’ Lorna Crichton.

Waterfall Arts’ stated mission is creating community in harmony with nature through the transformative power of the arts. It has its origins, and maintains a seasonal art center, in the Montville neighborhood of Kingdom Falls and there are images of Kingdom Falls in the Kurita exhibition, along with those of Baxter State Park and other Maine locations.

“In my new project Beyond Spheres, related to Thoreau, Maine is the most important state. Waterfall Arts Belfast and we are happy to collaborate with Thoreau’s spirit in both arts and nature,” said Kurita.

Kurita said he enjoys teaching because, in his experience, students and teachers learn from each other. And he learned that his work had already reached a Maine audience during the First Friday opening reception Oct. 7 in the Clifford Gallery.

“A person who had known well my work through old magazines joined the party; it was a surprising and happy happening,” he said.

Some two decades after leaving the glossy world of commercial photography, Kurita is embracing what he thinks will be a long project that will have him photographing the Maine outdoors year-round, including during his October stay in Belfast. He appears to be in his element.

“The most necessary surrounding for man is nature, not material civilization, I think,” he said.

The Clifford Gallery is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment. For more information on Kurita’s exhibit and talk, as well as the workshops, call 338-2222 or visit Both the exhibit and talk are sponsored by individual donors, Cold Mountain Builders and Consumers Fuel in Belfast.

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email to