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to accept what is there

November 21, 2009

I take a lot of photographs and show very few. If there is too much reality, too much identifiable sense of time and place, I don’t show these images. I have taken around 4,000 plates with my 8 x 10 camera and of those I show about one percent. I try to eliminate the reality, time and any sense of specific place. Of course this is extremely difficult with photography. Within a frame there are so many elements that are present and you cannot choose those that you want to keep and those that you want to eliminate. The only elements that you can control are contrast and tonality, light essentially. With painting all the ‘unnecessary’ parts in a scene can be eliminated. With photography, you just have to accept what is there. That is where the difficulty of photography lies. Photography is not something that you can make. It cannot be forced. You have to accept the subject.

Toshio Shibata
read interview

5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 21, 2009 7:47 pm

    thank you for posting this, Michael (but you post so many interesting things and so many of them are new to me, i should thank you in every comment to every post).
    i didn’t know him, and i enjoyed his words very much. it’s so true what he says, especially in the fragment you chose to show. i think this is both a strength and a weakness of photography compared to painting, this difficulty he talks about.
    i am less touched by his work, though. but this is a problem i have with many (most?) Japanese photographers, i don’t know why – while it’s almost impossible to find a Japanese director i don’t like. i have thought about it many times.

  2. November 21, 2009 7:58 pm

    i wonder if the difference between japanese photography and films is that in film the highly restrained emotion that is always at high tension and simmering just beneath the surface in japanese cinema, requires a temporal dimension, an unfolding that the still camera is not able to capture resulting in a certain constricted aesthetic i often sense in the work of japanese photographers who appear to be overly cerebral in my view, or at least most of those whose work i have seen give me this impression. meanwhile the rigid compositions and social conventions allow for a tense interplay with the emotional life of the characters in japanese films.

  3. November 23, 2009 6:12 am

    exactly. you expressed my dim thoughts better than i could have done it myself. that “overly cerebral” trait is the reason i can’t relate to Japanese photographers. and that is also the reason i find photography to be the art the least permeated with “japanesness” (that specific aesthetics and Weltanschauung which we recognize instantly as being “japanese”). and indeed, cinema through its unfolding time fits best that central japanese feeling of “fleetingness” – in virtually every Ozu film there is one character saying at some point, in a regret-sadness tainted voice: ah, how fleeting time/life is… but i still don’t understand why photography couldn’t be a tool to express the same thing, through exactly the opposite means.

  4. Lucy permalink
    June 16, 2010 9:57 pm

    Been reading your blog now for quite a long time and really love it. I don’t know if it’s your style or not , but do you think you could do a post on the oil spill in the gulf? I love your thoughts and opinions, and would love to see your comments on this tragedy.

  5. June 17, 2010 8:04 am

    Well Lucy, actually Pierre Joris already made an excellent post on the Gulf oil disaster, which if correct might be far more disastrous than we have been led to believe. see his post here.

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