The influence of Japanese art on contemporary landscape photography is, in my opinion, greatly underestimated. Most of us, even if we have never deliberately delved into the history of art in the Land of the Rising Sun, are nevertheless familiar with the scenes depicted in paintings or woodcuts. It is not necessary to study the changes taking place in particular periods of Japan's rich history in order to subconsciously see in them a fairly homogeneous aesthetics and atmosphere of mysticism.
Japanese paintings and woodcuts, whether depicting snowy mountains or marine scenes, having in mind Japan is a country of oceanic islands, remind me of expressive composition, limited colour palette, and strongly emphasized contours, which is a result of the very technology of reproducing xylographs.
I've always been in awe of these Japanese images, whether they depicted rough ocean waves, a landscape of valleys with snowy peaks in the background, or a sunset with the outline of an exotic pine tree in the foreground. These sublime paintings brought peace and a sense that the author was depicting a landscape that stays in order and is subject to the clear order of nature, where there is room for aesthetics and balance despite the strength of individual elements of nature.
In the woodcuts and paintings of the Ukiyo-e movement, I see a very deep source of inspiration that contemporary landscape photographers use to create minimalist compositions. Also, in photography, it is very popular to use strong, simple compositions, often with a dominant negative space emphasizing the image's main subject.
It is also common to use monochromatism, i.e., using only one colour of different shades in the image or a very limited colour palette. Strong contrasts or contours, lines that guide the viewer's gaze towards the subject, all these tools are the hallmarks of minimalism. It is a style that does not pass away because it allows us to capture the beauty of nature in a simple framework, clearly presenting its essence – the power of the elements combined with the order of the universe.
Such a weather element has recently allowed me to find a reproduction of a Japanese woodcut in the sky of Warmia, Poland. It's a strange combination, but a drone photograph of a frozen lake with a tree fallen by the wind reminded me of ukiyo-e woodcut as soon as I saw the preview on my controller's screen.
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Dimitri Vasileiou • Editor