Boat, Accabonac Harbor – Thoughts on Verticals

This very slender image of a boat was taken on the same foggy morning as the last two photographs.  Here’s another variation:

With images like these I can’t deny that a lifelong interest in Japanese painting still provides inspiration.  Maybe “information” is just as appropriate as “inspiration” because what I’m remembering is an esthetic approach rather than specific paintings.

In the 70’s I discovered the Freer Gallery in Washington and museums with similar work in NYC. The Japanese paintings I was looking at were centuries old but had a sophistication and contemporariness that I couldn’t find in European art.  In my twenties, I couldn’t get enough of the stuff, particularly the verticals. The result has been a thirty year affinity with the idea of formatting photographs in this manner, especially if they’re monochromatic.

There are connections between Japanese design elements and American photography because interest in both arrived here at around the same time. Early painterly work by Alfred Stieglitz followed on the heels of impressionism and it’s affinity for things Japanese. More specific was Minor White’s imagery which its obvious connections to Zen Buddhism. My own teacher Anthony Nobile was an associate of White’s along with fellow student Paul Caponigro. A third student was the late Zen Buddhist roshi John Daido Loori whose ties with White continued to inform his photography until his final days.

My teacher, Anthony Nobile made beautiful black and white images of waterfalls and formatted them as simple verticals. One such image was published in a book entitled Octave of Prayer which is sadly out of print. I can tell you that thirty years later the memory of that photograph still invigorates the way I compose a picture including the one at this post.

Perhaps the modern world with all its clutter is constantly in need of an antidote. Japanese brush paintings are one such remedy. Photography provides another.

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