Sumi-e photography is photography in the style of the Japanese ink brush painters - not only in the colours and textures, but in the subject matter as well. Neither filters nor digital manipulation are used. Rather, the natural light is captured from certain angles with a specific aperture and shutter speed to create an effect which is somewhere between a painting and a photo. The backgrounds emulate washi, or Japanese hand made paper, and 'empty space' is left for calligraphy. As the photos are printed onto an appropriate medium (water-colour paper, canvas), the calligraphy can be painted directly onto the photos - every print retains its individual character.
This series was taken in Kagoshima, Japan. My aim was to capture a part of Japan as the master ink-painters had seen it. It is amazing to observe that the colours and subjects of sumi e can be discovered in the Japanese landscape - the impressionistic effect that we associate with sumi e has always existed in nature. Something that may appear banal from one angle is beautiful when seen, quite literally, in a different light.
The photos were taken with certain haiku in mind. These haiku, composed by the renowned poet Kobayashi Issa, have been masterfully painted directly onto the photos by local shodo artist Miho Araki.
I have also written an article called "The New Study of Sumie Photography - The Art of Modern Ink Style Photography" for a popular article website and can be read here.
See my Flickr page for more photographs I have taken, these are mainly nature and marco photography. Please enjoy and feel free to comment!
Japan has a vivid and rich history of traditional art styles - one of them being the ink and wash painting known as Sumi-e. It was introduced to Japan from Korea in mid-14th century. Prominent masters of the style are Sesshu Toyo, Tensho Shubun and Josetsu.
This deeply spiritual and highly disciplined style of painting focus on clarity, concerntration and above all simplicity.