Sumi-e photography is photography in the style of Japanese ink brush painters, not only in colors and textures, but also in subject matter. No filters or digital manipulation are used. Rather, natural light is captured from certain angles with a specific aperture and shutter speed to create an effect that is somewhere between a painting and a photo. The backgrounds emulate washi, or Japanese handmade paper, with ‘blank space’ left for calligraphy.
Since the photos are printed on a suitable medium (watercolor paper, canvas), calligraphy can be painted directly onto the photos; each print retains its individual character.
Similar to the masters of the traditional art, it requires dedication, passion, concentration and above all clarity of 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 centuries. The “sumi-e” style was introduced to Japan in the mid-14th century by Korean missionaries. Trained in the art of concentration, clarity and simplicity, the first practitioners of Sumi-e 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 stick of solid ink (formed from the soot from pine branches) on stone and mixing it with water. Carrying the brush (fude) they composed poems, stories and characters in unique handwritten fonts on the delicate rice paper or silk scroll.
Noted masters of the style are Sesshu Toyo, Tensho Shubun, and Josetsu.