Saturday, May 21, 2011

Soba salt

Thanks to a recent post on 100 Hundred Mountains I discovered Okinawa Soba aka Rob Oechsle, a collector of Meiji and Taisho Japanese photography. Along with an amazing flickr collection, he also has a labyrinthine website devoted to T. Enami a turn of the century photographer based in Yokohama. There are about 3,000 images on his flickr profile, many with including Fuji as the central subject or used as a back drop. I spent several hours this afternoon trawling through his collections loosing myself in beauty and wonder. Although this is not an image by T. Enami, I have decided to post the following salt print with Okinawa Soba commentary in full. It gives a feel for his writing style and for the seriousness of his collecting and generosity with sharing his research. It's a fascinating project by an unusual man.
-- or, How Light Areas of a Salt Print Tend to Fade Away First ("Salt Print" # 11)
No Photoshop or Paint Eraser here. Posting un-retouched AS IS !!! This ca.1890s photograph was printed as a postcard size image around 1905 by a commercial photographer using the "Salted Paper Print" process. No standard albumen, collodian, or gelatin emulsion coatings for this guy. He was going to do it the "Classic" way like the old "Salt Print" and "Calotype" days of yore....and color it when he was done.
I will be the first to admit that the commercial revival of the classic salt print is pretty cool...and pretty rare for the late Meiji era. But, depending on how they were processed, these rare and often beautiful "revival salt prints" sometimes had a strange side effect: Very light areas, such as the face, or light clothing, had a tendency to lose the details -- and sometimes disappear altogether.
On some of these pictures (not all), the dreaded "fade-out" syndrome would hit those extremely light portions within a relatively short time, but leave the darker areas untouched. Even the once delineated summit-line of Mt. Fuji has reached a touch-and-go point in this image.
And our poor fellow on the horse, whose head was wrapped in a white winter "turban towel", just happened to line himself (and his neck) directly with the slope of the hill behind him. It was only a matter of time before he.....well, before he LOST HIS HEAD !.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Another mountain

I've been travelling to Hobart pretty regularly since November 2003, mostly to make art. Last week I finally got to show my work in Tasmania at CAST gallery.

When I was down there last week I had a very odd realisation- Mt Wellington was my first "Mt Fuji". It's shape is completely different but the way it's celebrated in art history and how you watch it is similar.

From the moment it greets you as you come over the ridge from the airport it shapes your experience of the city and the weather.
You search for views out of hotel windows, friends balconies,
check its peak to gage the weather,
admire its many moods.
I'm not the only one who has had this association. Below is a electrical street box near Parliament House.
Perhaps my attraction to Mt Wellington had primed me for my Fuji obsession and certainly if I lived in Hobart I would want to at least have one window that had a view towards the mountain (although not in the valley of South Hobart where you are in the shadow of the peak and some houses do not get any direct sunlight for six months). Also, I keep saying one day I will climb from the base to the summit- instead of the usual walk across heathland.

My story with Tasmania is starting a new chapter as I will mostly be travelling to Launceston for the next 6 months and after that I hope to have a break from the south and spend some time in the dry centre, or wet north.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Illustrated fuji

Bigger image on flickr
Fuji on the side of Illustrated Man- one of Sydney's oldest and most famous tattoo parlors- disappearing behind a security screen door.
I would be curious to see who has a Fuji tattoo. As most tattoos are made to memorialise a person or event, I'm interested in what exactly they were associating with the mountain?
There is one photo of a Fuji tattoo on the Illustrated Man website gallery. The shape of the mountain is totally wrong, and the file was called "Wave", which I find interesting as I suspect that being a beach culture, most people in Australia focus on the energy of the wave not the stillness of the mountain. Oddly the boat is in the tattoo but not the occupants.
"Wave" tattoo by Elliot
When I see this witches hat Fuji I think of the wonderful quote that Project Hyakumeizan posted recently from the Nihon Hyakumeizan (One Hundred Mountains of Japan) by Fukada Kyūya (1964) who in turn is quoting Kojima Usui:
this arc, slanting, somewhat steeply yet always in an easy, serene, almost carefree way, across a flawless sky
That curve and flat roofed peak is so perfect and calming to gaze upon, in fact its shape is everything- which makes me think that its inclusion in tattoo above is an after thought rather than its motivation.

On one of the entries on the British Museum database there is a quote by an artist describing how getting the perfection of Fuji's shape as a lifetimes work- I found it one night while procrastinating and now have no hope of remembering which of the 619 entries it was.

I just had another look at my post about Sarah's shoes (I link to it above) and just noticed that the Fuji on the bottom of her shoe is also a witches hat. Time for a new tag I think...