Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Haiku from photographs

A couple of months ago I was really excited to discover the black-and-white photographs of Daido Moriyama. They seemed to evoke a haiku feeling not just in the way that much photography does -- by capturing a single moment vividly -- but also in the nature of the moments he chooses to capture.

Like many of the best haiku, his photographs focus on things and beings that seem unremarkable, that aren't always dramatic or conventionally beautiful -- and if they are, his grainy photos humble them a bit. When photographing a city scene through a window, he focuses on a housefly on the window in the foreground instead of on a panoramic urban view. One of his most famous photos is of a stray dog, a mutt looking distrustfully over its shoulder at the camera.

So with all of that said, I've been excited for a while to work on some haiku inspired by Daido Moriyama's photographs. Each time I sit down with a book of them, though, I'm blank. I ooh and ahh from photo to photo and have small insights into how a haiku inspired by one might work -- but I haven't been able to sink into one enough to write comfortably.

For now, I think it's because the world of the photographs is physically foreign to me. Most of the photos I've considered have a clearly Japanese setting, and, since I've never been to Japan, I can't create a sensory image in my head convincing enough to write from. If I'm going to pursue the idea of linking haiku to photographs, I'm either going to have to write haiku from my own experience and pair them with Moriyama's photos in a very tangential relationship (which could have some interesting results); or I might start out by working from photos of more familiar settings by other photographers.

In any case, for today how about:

staring hard --
a grainy photo
at arm's length

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