The uchiwa, or rigid paper fan, is a practical device in the heat of Japan. Over the centuries, uchiwa have become an art form with a charm all their own.
The paper prints that are used to make fans are called uchiwa-e, the suffix indicating the print itself.
I first became acquainted with the beauty of these designs in the book Hiroshige Fan Prints by Rupert Faulkner, published in 2001 by Victoria and Albert Museum, London, as part of their Far Eastern Series. As a long-time admirer of ukiyo-e prints, these fan-shaped images include a unique compositional element that introduce non-rectangle borders to the design. I was mesmerized. Thus was born the inspiration to use a similar composition with my photographs.
In the fall of 2009, I traveled to Japan with an experiment in mind of making photographs for the uchiwa format. I now understand why this format suited the Japanese printmakers so well; everywhere I turned I found subjects ideally suited to the fan-shaped image.
The six “chapters” in this project represent autumn in Japan — at least to me. Because I am not a native Japanese person, I’m limited to experiencing their culture and seasons through the filter of a Westerner’s eyes and aesthetic. Nonetheless, the senses of wabi and yugen, furyu and sabi that have been written about with such frequency in discussions of Japanese aesthetics do resonate with me.