One of the strengths of minimalism in photography is how it’s great for capturing the glorious details of a scene. This way, you can get extra creative in drawing attention to interesting shapes, textures and patterns. A great example is the series below by Hashira Yamamoto, which is a simple but eye-catching showcase of the Zen aesthetic in traditional Japanese rock gardens.
If you’re a fan of carefully crafted spaces and intricate details, I’m sure you’ll appreciate the tranquil beauty of Zen gardens featured in this monochrome series. For the unfamiliar, Yamamoto’s work is an elegant introduction to the serene simplicity and peaceful mood these spaces are known for.
Giving a sense of place through artful space
According to Yamamoto, he is also a researcher with a passion for travel, nature and environmental issues. All these interests and his professional practice come together to his own visual style: simple and clean, with more attention to details and influenced by traditional photography.
The series features the Tofuku-ji Temple in Kyoto, one of the oldest temples in the town. However, the current garden is a recreation of landscape historian and architect Shigemori Mirei, who was commissioned by the temple in the late 1930s or early 1940s. Yamamoto also noted that the garden has four different iterations that surround the hojo, or the monk’s quarters.
I love how this series encapsulates the visual characteristics and atmosphere that make the temple and its Zen garden one of Kyoto’s famous historical landmarks. These include the carefully raked “sea” of sand, the stone and moss checkerboard pattern and the rock arrangement that represents sacred mountains.
For the finishing touch, he adds the sepia tone to his monochrome photos, reminiscent of traditional photography. He does this by using albumen printing process to achieve an aged but also classic look. I think that’s a really beautiful way to pay tribute to the long history of the temple.
Using monochrome minimalism as a tribute to details
While many photographers would initially go for sprawling shots of the temple grounds, Yamamoto opted to bring attention to the gorgeous details. Many of these point to the art of historical Japanese architecture itself. By pairing minimalism with monochrome visuals, viewers are encouraged to take a closer look at how the textures and patterns come together to create this unique space.
As whole, the series strongly suggests that we are looking at pieces of a puzzle that is distinctly Japan. It’s especially the case for those who are greatly familiar with Japanese culture.
If you’re looking for a new way to photograph familiar places, I hope this body of work inspired you to experiment with interesting and eye-catching details!
All photos by Hashira Yamamoto. Used with Creative Commons permission.