26 January 2015

Japanese (Photographic) Style

An interesting discussion between Western photographer in Japan John Sypal and Blake Andrews on the latter's blog. When discussing the differences between Japanese and Western photographers, there is this exchange: 

JS: You know, I've never ONCE heard a Japanese photographer ever comment on form or structure of a single picture- - instead it's an overview of all of them at once in a set.

BA: So the Japanese editors don't admire single images? What about some perfect moment like Capa's dying soldier? Would they have no understanding or appreciation? The set is more important? That's the diaristic thing? The photographs are more about the photographer than the moment? I think that's one of my hangups with Moriyama or Araki. Few of their photos stand up and say "Look at me. I'm special." It's more of an overall mood.

JS: I haven't met every editor so I can't really say- but I'd argue that Araki and Moriyama have made plenty of truly incredible photographs that stand alone magnificently- but at the same time, the entirety of their output serves as "work" as much as single pictures do.

All of which goes a long way towards helping explain my reaction to the Moriyama exhibition at Tate Modern a couple of years ago - reaction one, reaction two, reaction three. More reactions can be found by searching Mrs Lemon's for Moriyama. In essence, though, I was somewhat unsettled by the unstructured nature of Moriyama's photos (and to a lesser extent Klein's - they were exhibited together) and the seeming compulsion to take them no matter, it appeared to me at the time, what was in front of the lens.

Clearly I was, and maybe still am, missing a bigger part of the picture, or rather, pictures. 

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