New Zealander reimagines Japanese landscape photography
Sep. 28, 2017
One photographer is shining an outsider's eye on the Japanese countryside. He's reimagining an ancient art form to showcase the beauty in everyday landscapes. NHK World's Hiroyuki Tanaka reported on the story.
A rice field glows after an evening shower. The picture extends way up to the sky, capturing distant mountains.
In a similarly framed image, vivid red spider-lilies stand out against a sunset.
The photographer says he's inspired by traditional hanging scrolls, known as kakejiku. He calls his works, "photojiku."
New Zealander Damon Bay has been photographing Japan since arriving in the country 20 years ago. He focuses on the semi-rural areas called "satoyama."
"This satoyama environment can be only seen is in Japan," he says. "I really like the natural environment coexists with where people live."
Bay hit on the idea of hanging scrolls one day when he was shooting rice fields in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo. He wanted to capture in a single frame the depth of rice fields against the sky.
He developed his own technique, first taking multiple shots of the same scene, from his feet to the sky. He then knits them together digitally. A photographer friend suggested he print his pictures on Japanese washi paper.
Bay pays close attention to the gradations of the sky.
"In early summer, the lower part of the sky appears whitish because moisture creates a sort of veil of fog," says Damon. "The sky's blue deepens as you go higher. I found washi paper can produce that color gradation remarkably."
Taking his work to a local audience this August, Bay held an exhibition in Chiba City.
"Chiba has such beautiful landscapes," says one student visitor. "I thought it was completely developed."
"I think many Japanese people are not aware of just how beautiful Japanese countryside is," says Damon. "I want to show my photos in a different way from usual, because I want to create a fresh take on this beauty." The elegant form of Bay's photo scrolls brings life to landscapes where town meets country, and a Western eye meets Japanese tradition.