Shinto festivals are community rites. The god of the local shrine is transferred to a portable shrine, which is carried through the parish in an all-day event. Teams sing and dance while carrying their divine host. Along the way, these bearers stop for refreshment.
There are no sermons. This is no proselytizing. The revelation is far more subtle, far more profound. The place, the people are sacred for this day and for every day that follows. Click on the image for a larger view.
How do you separate luck and talent? Talent can get you good images, competent images. But those magic moments, where do they come from? Personally, I feel those pictures are given, rather than taken.This image from Futon Daiko: A Japanese Festival is a result of many chance factors. The crowd was huge and pushed me back against a stone lantern; the force of the crowd split the lens hood on another camera in my bag. Needing some kind of support to make a long exposure—a tripod was not going to work—I clamped my camera on a steel I-beam supporting a branch of an 800-year-old camphor tree at arms length above my head. So far, so good. Just one problem. How do I frame the picture? I could not see through the viewfinder.
For those without a photography background, there is a technique or style known as shooting full frame. The photographer frames the image in the camera and does not recompose or crop later. I have used this style for my entire career—an unnerving way to work as there are no fixes later. So guessing the camera position, guessing the focus, guessing the exposure, here is the result, just as the camera saw it.
How much of this image is mine? How much luck? How much the good graces of the god Hachiman? I doubt the question can ever be answered. But I feel blessed to be there to take the picture, or maybe to receive it.
We are pleased to announce our new publication that has just been released in the Apple iBookstore: Futon Daiko: A Japanese Festival.Japan has an ancient and mysterious culture that seems impenetrable to the outsider. Experience is the essence of the native Japanese religion of Shinto. This volume of photographs explores the Japanese festival, or matsuri, embodied in shrine Shinto. The book follows the two-day Futon Daiko festival at Mozu Hachiman Shrine in Sakai, Japan, after an introduction to another variation of the festival at Ogikubo Hakusan Shrine in Tokyo. William Ash’s photography shows the passion and power of these rites. The book provides a beautiful introduction to shrine Shinto with forty-six photographs, two illustrations, and an illustrated glossary.