by William Corey
At a crossroad in my artistic life, I made a decision in 1981 to devote my career to photographing the ‘good’ that mankind was capable of — those successful integrations of man and his environment.
The customary manner of photographing the gardens has been to ‘document’ them, the primary purpose being descriptive, educational, and picturesque. Japanese gardens are far from a common subject in the realm of fine art photography. They elude our customary notion of what a garden is, and the intentions behind them are not easily read, particularly by those outside the culture. By inclination and training my approach to garden photography is different — more personal and interpretive — a matter of detailed perceiving that, like the gardens themselves, requires reverence, respect, and time. My aim has been to go beyond description — maintaining continuity with the past, yet making new and refreshing images that permit an exploration of the garden that allows the viewer to experience the details, designs, and motives in ways that were previously inaccessible, to pursue the inner, hidden reality, the very essence of beauty that embraces the symbolic realm of the gardener’s art.
I photograph solely with the large format 8″ X 20″ banquet camera. Control of this instrument has required many years of diligence, patience, and perseverance. Yet the rewards are unsurpassed. The extremely large negative size (100 times a 35mm negative!) allows much more information to be captured on film. Details are accentuated, the tonal scale enriched and extended, the sense of realism enhanced.
Combined with the long, rectangular shape — analogous to the Japanese scroll and unusual and bold compositions are possible — I am able to expand the way that people see and know photographs as well as the subjects they portray, to create a distinctive artistic expression. Making not only images of but images about the garden, I may be able to extend the traditional boundaries of color landscape photography, and through the essence of this beauty enhance the mutual understanding between Japan and the west.
I have devoted nearly three decades of my life to increasing my understanding of these gardens with incomparable sophistication, to refining and defining my craft and style, and to making photographs that will adequately convey to a western audience some of the rich heritage that these gardens represent.
I realize that this is a lifetime endeavor…