In 2007, I took a class with Tanya Ferretto Steel at Harvard University in the Extension School, which covered the History of Japanese Art from 1600 to the Present. A bit into the class I had a little epiphany about my photography that led me to the work I am doing now. I realized I could use my Bronica 645 camera, which makes vertical negatives on film to make diptychs, two adjacent negatives I could print onto one piece of paper, using a 4x5" carrier. This is good old fashioned optical printing from film onto Type C Paper, a process I have loved since college. So I began shooting often combining shots that were taken side by side, mostly landscapes, cityscapes and seaside photos.
I continue to be inspired by Japanese Art, and love looking at images of paintings and prints. One of my favorite works shown In Dr. Steel's class was Sakai Hōitsu's pair of painted screens, Grasses and Flowers in Spring and Fall, made some time in the Edo Period (1600-1868) and now in the Tōkyō National Museum. Some day I would like to go see the original paintings. This is an amazing work, as Hoitsu painted the picture over silver leaf, using sumi ink and colors he probably miked for himself using precious materials like lapis lazuli for the blue of the water in the upper right. Hoitsu worked in what is now known as the Rinpa Style, which emphasized bold color instead of the heavy black lines of other Japanese Art at the time. Besides being a lovely study of native plants, this painting is also allegorical. It was painted to hang on the back of another earlier famous painting by Ogata Korin of the Buddhist Wind and Thunder gods Fujin and Raijin, which was a copy of a previous work By Tawaraya Sotatsu. The wind in the plants and the rivulet of water allude to a passing thunderstorm. Also fascinating is that these artists knew each other only through seeing the works of each previous master, usually after death. So the Rinpa Style was not formally handed down directly from master to student, like the official government sponsored Kano School.
It might be cheeky to say so, but I guess my current work is a continuation of the Rinpa tradition, translated to a new country and the new(ish) medium of color photography. And like the other Rinpa artists, I learn not by studying with teacher and adopting his school, but by seeing the works of those old masters, long dead.