My roots in photography go back to my university days in Holland. I was a student in Rotterdam, on my way to becoming an economist. I had a keen interest in nature, and I sought solitude and communion with the natural world in a city park, where I tried to capture the changing seasons in moody impressions made with a simple SLR camera.
At that time, I barely knew how my camera worked, but technical books about photography didn’t interest me very much. The books that did inspire me included anthologies of Japanese haiku poetry. I was enchanted with how haiku poets rendered their experiences in spare but evocative ways. Haikus often refer to a season, and they create a mental picture layered with meaning in a clean line of words.
What I tried to do with my camera was to mirror the feeling of reading haikus with images that conveyed a similar emotion. My tools were minimalist: I had one camera, two lenses and nothing else.
One spring morning as I roamed through the park, I was attracted to some flowering shrubs. I moved my camera closer and closer, and ended up pushing my lens all the way into the blossoms, in a visceral attempt to highlight the exuberance of color and to dissolve other details. To me, the specifics of the scene mattered less than the spirit of the moment, and in my mind I heard the words of haiku master Matsuo Basho:
The whole spring night
ended in morning glow
on cherry blossoms
Taking inspiration from other art forms has infused my work throughout my career, and this early example still resonates for me now—as a response to Basho’s words and to the fleeting moment of a spring sensation.
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