09 April 2009

Honka-dori

Sea and sky at Flounder BayHonka-dori (sometimes spelled as one word: honkadori) is a Japanese term referring to the way an artist alludes to an older work. The context is usually poetry, but seems to have a wider application: artist/photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto, one of whose photos appears on the cover of U2's No Line on the Horizon, says "In Japanese cultural traditions, the act of emulating works of great predecessors is called honka-dori, "taking up the melody. Not scathed as mere copying, it is regarded as a praiseworthy effort." I suppose, therefore, this photo could be considered honka-dori, although I had no conscious knowledge of Sugimoto's photo when I pressed the shutter release at Flounder Bay in June 2008.
However, something about scenes like these affects me deeply (eventually I'll post something about my time on the coast of Ghana). I think Sugimoto said it beautifully: "That's the effect of seascapes," he said, before explaining that a view of a boatless ocean is one of the only things left in the world that we can experience in the same way that our primitive ancestors would have experienced millenniums ago. "The works are really connected to the very deep roots of the human mind." [Corkill, Edan 2009. Photographer Sugimoto strikes a Stone Age deal with U2. The Japan Times (20 March 2009).]
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

9 comments:

Zhoen said...

This one draws me in and out, and I'm really not sure why.

Anonymous said...

made me laugh when I opened this one and saw half a page of greyness
looks like a good english summers day
time to get the surfcaster out
tom

the watercats said...

I have a good friend from New Zealand and she speaks so passionately about her land that I've been intrigued by the place since meeting her. it would be brilliant to get there one day, but with your photo's and their commentary, I feel like I can absorb some of it. Just stunning! cheers!

Anne-Marie said...

I've been looking at this photo for some minutes, trying to decide what I make of it ... and I still don't know. I do like the simplicity of it, but it confuses me too. I'm interested to know how you've processed this image. I can't work out if it's a stormy day at Flounder Bay [doesn't look stormy] or a fine day that's been made to look misty.

pohanginapete said...

Zhoen, somehow that seems appropriate for a photo like this.

Tom, I reckon fishing would be one of the very best responses to a scene like this. That, or rowing out into it.

Watercats — great! I'm sure you'd have a wonderful time here (and I trust you will). You'd probably feel very much at home, too, particularly on a Tuesday evening at the Celtic jam session ;^)

Anne-Marie, it was a grey day; if I remember right, it was pretty calm, too. I remember being struck by the simplicity of the scene: it seemed utterly elemental. What little colour was there, I've removed, and I've vignetted and softened it. But photos like this (if one can in fact call them photos) aren't necessarily intended to represent a particular occasion, nor indeed a place. My intention with this was to evoke, not represent, although I find it fascinating that, for me, it does both.

Anne-Marie said...

Why would you not call it a photo?

It certainly does evoke - a grey, misty, cool seascape - but for me it doesn't represent Flounder Bay at all. It could be Ghana for all I know. I suspect you are quite happy with that ambivalence :-)

Not my favourite of your photos but certainly an interesting one.

butuki said...

Isn't it strange how the imagination sets in when the eyes can't focus? As others above have said, this photo evokes an uncomfortable feeling, not unlike an autofocus lens trying to zero in on an edge, but failing. But when you stand at the edge of a great expanse, this is partly the feeling that you get, and for some reason that also evokes a great feeling of tranquility. Affirms my belief that humans needs great spaces to truly feel themselves.

pohanginapete said...

Anne-Marie, because "photo" tends too often to emphasise "realistic" representation. By "evoke", I intended to refer to emotions rather than "things" like seascapes, mist, or greyness.

Miguel, I agree: when I stand on the edge of a precipice or hang from a cliff, I feel the mixed emotions of fear and great freedom. I'm afraid I wouldn't survive crowded, in captivity.

butuki said...

I'm glad there's someone out there who feels much the same as I do. My brother keeps telling me that I have to learn to accept any place as a viable and healthy place, that it's all in my head. But here I am moving back to Tokyo and I have very mixed feelings about it. I don't think I'll be here for very long.