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Influences ~ part 1.


Inspiration derives from many sources, mostly for me, from great artists. I have long held a fascination with Japanese culture, in particular Japanese art, with artists such as Hokusai playing a major role in the direction of my work. The clean lines and masterly compositions are very appealing to me and would seem to use the same kind of processes that I have previously described with my visual mantra. I've always loved the below image of a fisherman perched precariously on this rocky outcrop. The fisherman looks as if he’s going to be swept away at any moment and I love the energy that Hokusai has depicted in the movement of the waves.

'A Fisherman at Kajikazawa' ~ zen Hokusai Iitsu Hitsu.

I had the previous image by Hokusai planted firmly in my retinas when I began to compose the image 'Gone Fishing', see below. Much to my delight when I arrived at Filey Brigg, which I've visited countless times, there were two fisherman on the promontory. Filey is a place where you can get very close to the power of the sea, quite similar in fact to the Hokusai scene. Here, I’ve attempted to create the same kind of feel as the Hokusai, I think I got pretty close with the texture of the water, which was achieved with about a half second exposure, I almost lost the tripod to a rogue wave too! Nothing ventured, nothing gained. The whole experience was quite amusing too, with me looking at the fisherman and them looking at me, with us all probably wondering who was craziest!


'Gone Fishing' ~ Karl Holtby.

Below is another example of a hugely inspiring image to me, by Japanese artist Hasegawa Tōhaku. I love it when I can get one of my images to evoke this kind of mystery. To me this painting which is actually on a screen, is full of mystery. The scene is mysterious due not only to the amount of negative space but also the fact that some of the trees are only half painted, this allows the eye or rather the imagination to fill in the blanks


'Pine Trees' ~ Hasegawa Tōhaku.

The image by Tōhaku directly inspired my image 'Winter Solitude', which features my favourite pine tree in the middle of a local heathland. On a normal day this scene simply wouldn't work, the tree line on the horizon being too harsh, cutting across the main subject of the pine tree. However, mist is the best element for creating a sense of mystery, nature's way of adding wonderful negative space. The more you look at the image, slowly the distant tree line becomes evident, yet retains a sense of the 'mist-erious'.

'Winter Solitude' ~ Karl Holtby.

Japanese photographers also feature on my list of influences, the below seascape by Hiroshi Sugimoto is from a series of images that aims to connect us with something timeless, primeval even. No matter how much change we see in the world, seascape scenes such as this will always retain the same sense of wonder that they always have.

From the series 'Seascapes' ~ Hiroshi Sugimoto.


The Japanese have an interesting concept known as ‘Ma’, which can be roughly translated as space, or a gap, or pause. It’s basically the negative space between things, whether that be spatial objects or even the pause between sounds. It’s an interesting concept and negative space is extremely important in my work, allowing the eye to wander. In my below image 'Migration', 'Ma' features very heavily, as does the influence of Sugimoto.



'Migration' ~ Karl Holtby.


'Sein' ~ Karl Holtby.

The above image is another example of the use of negative space in my own work, influenced by the many Japanese artists that I've encountered over the years. I hope this brief insight into some of my influences has given a little food for thought, in the words of Picasso 'Good artists copy, great artists steal'.

As a final note, I'm proud to be an ambassador for a traditionally Japanese company, that is of course SIGMA, all of the images here were made with Sigma cameras and lenses, with the exception of 'Gone Fishing', which was made with a Sony a7R, with a Sigma lens ;-)



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© 2015 by Karl Holtby