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.
Similar to the masters of the traditional art form, it requires dedication, passion, concentration and above all clarity of the mind and heart to find truth and love in the new art.
The History of Sumi-e
The traditional style of ink painting in Japan has a rich and vivid history that spans over centuries. The “sumi-e” style was introduced Japan in mid-14th century by Korean missionaries. Trained in the art of concentration, clarity and simplicity, Sumi-e’s earliest practitioners were the highly disciplined monks. The masters dedicated themselves to the art form through years of reflection and strict discipline. In preparation they would make ink by grinding a solid ink stick (formed from the soot of pine branches) on stone and mixing it with water. Loading the brush (fude) they composed poems, stories, and characters in unique handwritten fonts on the delicate rice paper or silk scroll.
Prominent masters of the style are Sesshu Toyo, Tensho Shubun and Josetsu.