Artist Inspirations, The Art of Philosophy

Honest Photography: how to photograph with a free mind

Part 1. Kosuke Okahara on photographing with a free mind

“If there’s a pure form of documentary photography, the picture should not be influenced by any preexisting visions.”

Having been working on a story about the impact of drugs on local community in various parts of Columbia for 13 years, Kosuke Okahara became able to predict the kind of scenes that he would see even though he was in different towns, and in the way he would frame the images.

“It’s like I was trying to see what I’ve seen already… it’s almost like I’m copying myself…”

“I asked myself – am I documenting or am I just taking pictures of the situation that I kind of wanted to see… ” he quoted. 

A former aspiring Olympic skier whom became a W. Eugene Smith Fellowship recipient, Japanese photographer Kosuke Okahara shared his struggle with the philosophical dilemma he had with documentary photography, and his journey to finding his ways through making the work The Blue Affair

© Kosuke Okahara, from the photobook ‘The Blue Affair’; Source @ Kosuke Okahara Website

The Blue Affair is a a work with photographs taken in Koza, the heart of Okinawa, which gave Okahara the refreshing sense of being a photographer with a beginner’s mind again. The repeated visits without a specific purpose in producing a story somehow led to the people, the conversations, the happenings he encountered from this place infiltrating his dreams — as if these were symbolic gestures in nudging him to return, and at the same time, to relight his inner flame and re-experience again the joy of just pure photography.   

“… being more conscious takes one away from the purpose while getting ride of the purpose is the only way to get closer to the intent. In that sense, documentary is like a tragedy of fate. Achieving by losing – like a Shakepearean play.” —extract from the afterword written by Tatsuya Ishikawa, of the photo book The Blue Affair by Kosuke Okahara. 

Are we really creating images from a fresh eye every time we shoot, or are we already building on from pre-existing images of what to be seen? How can we be more aware when the way we photograph becomes purposeful rather than being open and honest with what is there to be seen? And how can we remove ourselves from the position of already knowing and begin again with a beginner’s mind? These are the questions to ponder, and with the blue affair, Okahara has shown us that it is possible.

Going through The Blue Affair book gave me chills. It’s the kind of book that gives you a visual journey in a way that you are drawn in as if you were present with the photographer, experiencing what he was experiencing at the same time. That’s the kind of work I aspire to work towards, because the work that one would remember the most, are the ones that are felt.

His recommended Photobook:  Rasen Kaigan by Leiko Shiga

Please check out his work:

Website: https://www.kosukeokahara.com / IG: @kosukeokahara

To be continued… Part 2. Teju Cole on embracing chance in a confined time

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