Matsuo Basho Haiku

Within my pack was a Haiku poem by Matsuo Basho:

‘Clouds appear

and bring to men a chance to rest

from looking at the moon.’

This was the first thing that I was drawn to within my pack, originally I was unaware that this was a haiku but was drawn to how it was short and sweet, I liked the idea of creating a body of work in response to some text and this would be a perfect example of this. I also had the image in my mind of doing something about cloud watching or the sky in general, this is something that I haven’t really done before, thinking further in this I could easily link all of the factors that we need to into this such as portraits and interior shoots. I didn’t want to get too ahead of myself or stuck on one idea so firstly I did some research on what a haiku was, this is what I found out:

  • A Japanese style of poetry
  • Consisting of 3 lines and 17 syllables: line 1- 5 syllables, line 2- 7 syllables, line 3- 5 syllables
  • They don’t have to rhyme
  • However some more complex haikus do on the 1st and 3rd line

From this research I was even more excited about my idea, having the numbers 3 and 17 could very easily be linked into my photobook, for example, 17 photos or pages within my book and 3 different sections or types of photos within the book. Further from this research I wanted to go further so looked into the poet: Matsuo Basho, here is was I found:

  • One of the most celebrated Japanese poets
  • Specialises in Haiku’s
  • His work is praised for its brevity and clarity: simplicity
  • Job= teacher
  • Poetry was something he used as escapism, something he enjoyed
  • Writing poetry from a young age
  • Known to take to the countryside and wander, rejected urban life
  • Experiences and observations of nature fuelled his work

Here are some further ideas that I had from the haiku that was in my pack:

  • Clouds- cloud watching, where the people have been lying, ‘the missing person’ potential narrative? Different types of clouds
  • Moon- night photography, star trails, the moon at different times, shapes and sizes
  • Could also lead onto other weather, reflections in water etc.
  • 3 lines could link into 3 kinds of pictures within the book
  • 17 syllables could link to the amount of pictures in the book
  • Japanese poem so Japanese stab binding links perfectly
  • Simple images to link with Matsuo Basho’s work style
  • Could look more at countryside as this also links to Matsuo Basho, still want to explore urban scapes
  • Look into shadows and highlights and the patterns they make, link to Uta Barth
  • Experiment with putting things on images I have printed out, from the places- beaches, fields, etc.… Jerry Takigawa

Although this idea was the very first thing I thought of I think that I could respond to this with some strong images, this is definitely something that I am going to experiment with and hopefully take further within my project, there are several different techniques that come to mind that I could use such as: long exposures, studio work (portraits and things from the place), photograms, double exposures, night photography and more. By experimenting with such a wide range of photographic techniques I think this would give my project the chance to evolve in so many different ways.

As I liked the idea of responding to text so much I wanted to look further in Haikus so I searched for more by the same poet, this just seemed like the quickest and easiest search to do, I was quite happy with the results finding out that he had written hundreds, not only this but I liked his simplistic style and approach, as well as a lot of the subject matter. Below are a few poems that I picked out with notes of a few ideas:

‘How wild the sea is,

and over Sado Island

the River of Heaven’

  • Beach
  • Landscapes

‘In my new clothing

I feel so different, I must

look like someone else’

  • Self-portraits?
  • Normal portraits
  • Not the normal portraits, think of different ways of portraying people

‘I felt quite at home,

As if it were mine sleeping lazily

In this house of fresh air’

  • Links to me, countryside is home
  • Can link to interiors and countryside’s

‘Buddha’s Death Day

from wrinkled praying hands

the rosaries’ sound’

  • Concentrate on nature… Things that are dying
  • Irving Penn
  • Could show the progression of this
  • Giles Bensimon?

‘Not to think of yourself

as someone who did not count —

Festival of the souls’

  • Self-portraits again
  • Or normal portraits
  • Positive, celebration of life

‘All along this road

not a single soul- only

autumn evening comes’

  • Chose a single road
  • Photograph it over different time periods
  • Interior could be of a car

I am going to try out several of these and see which works best, along with some other ideas from my pack.

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