Forward to the Photographs

 

Monochrome landscape photography is very similar to the ancient art of black ink painting, or sumi-e, of China and Japan. The major difference is that the sumi-e artist, after many years of training, uses his years of experience in sketching and painting to intuitively create his work, basing the composition on the use of dominant, sub-dominant and subordinate positions for the subject matter. On the other hand, a photographer must use his trained eye to position himself in such a location where the view allows such a composition, and most importantly, he must then have the patience to wait for the right moment, when the conditions of light, shadows and clouds provide a composition, and then capture that moment.  With patience and sharp awareness of the subject matter, a photographer can step beyond ordinary landscape photographs, and create extraordinary ones.  


In Japanese art, especially, active empty space is a very important element in the composition.  Active empty space in sumi-e is prepared during the process of composing the painting.  This active empty space is the place where the viewer of the painting and its creator, the artist, communicate.  It is easier for the painter to create such space, because he begins with a blank white space.  On the other hand, for a photographer viewing a scene of great nature through the lens of a camera, in which every element of nature is in the composition, a problem arises--the problem of how to create active empty space. Tom Reed often solves this problem by including rich, black shadows, brilliant white snow, or clear sky in his compositions.


Mr. Reed decided to use a chop, a seal used in a traditional Japanese painting, as a signature for his monochrome photographs. But finding the right space to place a red seal in a monochrome scene is often a challenge.  Sometimes when there is a dead empty space in a composition, that seal can make the space become active and provide a “finishing touch” for a photographic composition.
Tom Reed studied both calligraphy and sumi-e and uses this experience for his creative energy in his photographic images, and I feel he has successfully captured their full beauty.

 

Shozo Sato
Professor Emeritus in Japanese Aesthetics;
University of Illinois: Urbana-Champaign Campus.