FotoFest 2006

David Williams recently traveled in Japan, where he photographed trees and garden spaces within the country's ancient Buddhist temples. The resulting series of photographs, one taste: (n)everchanging, provides a meditation on nature, time, and change.  The precise location depicted in these particular triptychs is a tree-lined pathway that runs alongside the walls of the Tofuku-ji Temple in Kyoto. Established in 1236, it became one of the Five Great Temples of Kyoto and survived centuries of turmoil to be recognized as a national treasure. The many gardens within the temple complex, formal spaces of raked stone set against asymmetric plantings of moss and shrubs, are archetypes of Zen cosmography.

The central image in each  triptych shows the trunk of a tree from the cedar genus, Cryptmeria Japonica. Cropped at the base and again before the first branches define the tree's canopy, the trunk forms an axis for the drama of light and shade that unfolds through the series. Williams took each photograph at a different point in time, marked by how the passing sun reflects the dappled shadow of branch and leaf onto the garden wall of the temple. This ghost image is the only evidence in the photograph of the chaos of nature that exists outside of the picture frame.

Dr. Tom Normand,
Senior Lecturer, History of Art,
University of St. Andrews, Scotland
From his essay in the FOTOFEST2006


one taste: (n)ever-changing

one taste: (n)everchanging, depicts trees and garden spaces within ancient Buddhist temples. The resulting series of photographs delivers a meditation that evokes the esoteric koans of Buddhist teaching. Eight triptychs are of a cedar tree throughout one specific day from a fixed camera position. Conceptually, the work is multi-layered and interconnects issues of time, nature and culture.

David Williams's project was supported by Edinburgh College of Art (eca) Research Board, The Sun Chlorella Corporation in Kyoto, and Nozomi Group (eca).


Born in Edinburgh in 1952, David Williams is head of photography at Edinburgh College of Art.  He studied English literature before becoming a professional musician/composer in the mid-1970s. He took up photography in 1980, and since that time his work has been extensively published and exhibited. He is the recipient of a number of awards and prizes, including the BBC Television 150 Years of Photography Prize.
Williams’s abiding interest in Eastern philosophy and its relationship to contemporary art practice is evident in one taste: (n)ever-changing. These images were made at Tofuku-ji Zen Temple, Kyoto, during one of several recent trips Williams has made to a variety of Buddhist temple sites in Japan. He plans to return to Japan on a regular basis in order to carry on with this project, visiting new sites and adding to what is evolving into a major body of work. For further details, visit

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