Back from Hokkaido
I got in from Japan yesterday and dove headlong into the blur of jetlag. By now I’m pretty good at the auto-pilot chores and the mindless digging out from the pile of things accumulated in my absence. It’s not just jetlag that makes it hard, but the more whole-body confusion that results from longing to be back where I just left while trying to be present here and at the same time plan for the next trip, which is only a month away. Less jet-lag and more nomadic dissonance.
Hokkaido was amazing. Last time it was wildlife, this time short lenses and tripods and standing in waves or up to my waist in snow. Evenings were spent with friends, drinking sake, singing karaoke (we did this once: that was more than enough for most of those involved. (Toto, I apologize for the horrors I visited upon your beautiful song, Africa.) We slept those nights off in nice hotels, most of them with lovely food, many of them with traditional rooms and futons on the floor. And each morning we were back at it, lugging gear to the bus, then to the beach, stopping once in a while to refill supplies of weird-flavoured Kit Kat bars and sake at convenience stores along the way.
This time I shot a couple series of images – one square and black and white, the other (like the top image) in a soft warm/cool palette, and yet another of colourful abstracts of from the fishing boats, which I’ll post in a couple days. There’s something incredibly elegant, simple, and graphic about Hokkaido, something that feels particularly wabi-sabi about the place, which is the idea that I had bouncing around in my head the whole time. “Wabi-sabi,” writes Leonard Koren on the back of his book, Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets, and Philosophers, “is the quintessential Japanese aesthetic. It is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is a beauty of things modest and humble.” That idea, or my incomplete understanding of it, was behind the images I made on this trip. I’ve only just started pairing them, editing them down, but the work already seems on some level to have succeeded. The images feel, to me, earthbound and rooted, Japanese-inspired, but universal.
Coming days are full of chores and waking up (unwillingly) long before the sun. My next assignment is in Kenya for the Boma Project, and between now and then there’s the pile of things that fills the days of most photographers I know. But I get to be surrounded by photographs, and there’s nothing more I’d rather do. Except seeing the world, but that comes soon enough. Before I leave for Kenya I’ll be releasing See The World, Twenty Lessons for Stronger Travel Photographs – it’s large (over 200 pages), beautiful, and in addition to as much as I could cram in about making better photographs about the places we travel, has interviews with Bob Krist and Art Wolfe, packing lists, thoughts on bags and tripods, and all the others stuff – but mostly it’s the stuff you won’t find online when you reasearch travel photography and you get flooded with platitudes. Look for it on February 11. Like my other eBooks, it’s a downloadable PDF and it’ll be on sale for the first week.