Japan Dispatch No3.

If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything and it is open to everything. In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the mind of the expert there are few.”
-Shunryu Suzuki

Subtle Tranquility. Japan, 2019.
64mm / f10 / 30s / ISO 125

 In this dispatch I'd like to start by making a personal request which comes with a chance to win an signed, framed, first edition print of one of my Japan photographs for as little as £25 upon their release early next year. As you know, proceeds of my first series of work were donated to EMpower in 2018 and 2019. EMpower usually hosts a wonderful dinner in London each November which has traditionally raised between £1-1.5m towards funding it's amazing grantee partners in the 15 emerging markets that it covers. This year, given that there is no way to host a dinner, EMpower supporters are taking part in various challenges around the globe such as runs, coding courses and yoga classes with two aims: to travel 25,000 miles and to do 25,000 minutes of activity. A group of my colleagues and I are doing our part by cycling 1000km, with sponsorship that we raise being matched by EMpower's underwriters. 

I'm humbly asking that you might support us with a donation which can be made here. For each £25 that someone donates, I will enter their name into a ballot (capped at 10 entries per person) and will at random draw a name who can then choose a print from my Japan dispatches to be framed, printed and delivered to their home anywhere around the world - a value of around £750-1000. Thank you for your support!
Sweeping Torii Skies. Japan, 2020.
64mm / f22 / 120s  / ISO 100
Going back to photography, I'd like to take an opportunity to answer a question that many people seem to ask not just myself but most photographers about their work - do you edit your photographs? Why of course, the answer is yes.

In understanding how and why, it's first important to consider why we take photographs. It is to capture meaning, convey a way of looking at a particular moment in time and present our view of the world that we take photographs. Half the challenge is using the camera, filters, tripods and other technical equipment in the field to create the canvas which we want to base our photograph on. The other half of the process happens in the post-production where we are able to crop the photograph to focus the attention on a specific area, we are able to remove any "noise" which does not materially alter the image, but also does not serve a purpose in it's final presentation. Finally, in the field there are so many variables which cannot be captured directly in the in-camera photograph - the temperature, the smell, the sound, the way the light moved over the time we observed our scene and so many other subtle details. Through the editing of the lighting, shadowing and texture of the photograph it's the aim of the photographer to deliver an emotional experience similar to the feeling we had in the field to the viewer. 

Almost all of my work is shot in long exposure and I recently came across a quote by one of my favourite photographers, Michael Kenna, which explains so well why this is my favourite way of shooting. "During long exposures, the world changes. Rivers flow, planes fly by, clouds pass and the Earth's position relative to the stars is different. This accumulation of light, time and movement, impossible for the human eye to take in, can be recorded on film. Real become surreal, which is wonderful". 

Island Torii. Japan, 2019.  
64mm / f13 / 30s  / ISO 100

 To close this dispatch I'd like to paraphrase a short excerpt from a book called "Stray Reflections" which I have recently been reading. It describes a Japanese concept called "Shibumi". 

"Shibumi is an ineffable quality, a place of overwhelming calm that we should seek to find. Shibumi is understanding rather than knowledge. Eloquent silence. In demeanour, it is modesty without prudence. In art, where the spirit of shibumi takes the form of sabi, it is elegant simplicity...One does not achieve Shibumi...one discovers it. Does this mean one must learn a great deal to arrive at Shibumi? No, it means that one must pass through knowledge and arrive at simplicity".

As we head into the long winter that awaits us this year, with the inevitable tumult we might feel around the darkening and lengthening of the nights, the political cycle and the re-entering into lockdowns, let us all try to act with good intention and strong will to bring, gradually and graciously, Shibumi into our lives and remain grateful for the lessons this year is teaching us.