Friday, 30 July 2010

Horiyoshi III Ryu.

As time is surely flying, I find time inbetween editing the scanns of Horiyoshi III's paintings for the upcoming bookrelease of "Ryushin", and manage to process photographs for our next book, "Kokoro".

Since there are many good ones in the enourmous pile of photographs we have captured so far, some of them will obviously show up on this blog. Seems like we could go on shooting for this project forever, and as always, humans do not have "forever" to spend. Not even on photography and Irezumi. A blink of an eye, and one hears the muffled thuds of shovelfuls of soil landing on top of the casket, as it is lowered into the ground.

No, better to move ahead with confidence and be satisfied with what comes our way.

/Senju (matti sedholm).

Photograph captured by Matti Sedholm at Horiyoshi III's studio in Yokohama, Japan, April 2010.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Ozuma Kaname II.

Studio interior and portrait of legendary painter Ozuma Kaname.
Please visit Ozuma Kaname's website in order to view his paintings.

(photgraphs captured by Matti Sedholm in Tokyo, Japan april 2010)

Wednesday, 21 July 2010


(photograph made by Matti Sedholm/Senju at Nishi Higashi Hongan-ji, Kyoto, Japan 2007)

Monday, 19 July 2010

Yamaoka Tesshu (June 10, 1836 - July 19, 1888).

Today it's 122 years since Yamoka Tesshu died of stomach cancer, all too early.
The Master Calligrapher, Zen painter, swordsman, innovator of Kendo and great Zen personality died in sitting meditation, Zazen, inhaling and never again exhaling.

His death poem read;

Tightening my abdomen
Against the pain
The caw of a morning crow.

His life and work was a true testimony to his words "Not Tiring of Defeat Leads to Victory".

(photograph made by Matti Sedholm at Kennin-ji, Kyoto, Japan 2007)

Friday, 16 July 2010

The creation of "Kokoro"; a new book about Horiyoshi III of Yokohama #3

"Kokoro" is a book project that we started in order to present the subjective way we see Irezumi. We felt that previous books on the matter, (some good, some bad) never really touched the heart of the matter, the spirit of Irezumi. To find that spirit one has to go further than merely showing tattoos and discussing history and technique. Irezumi is basically a metaphor for the Japanese spirit, where a myriad of expressions of the cultural soul falls together into a whole.

Even though "Kokoro" will be showing photographs of Master Horiyoshi III's work and the Master himself, we have the intention to dare into a more poetic and soulful field of portraiture.
We will not try to tell the reader and viewer "how it is" but rather "how we see it".
Telling the "truth" is something that is prone to failure, and since all is Grey, and never Black and White, we have to find our own path to walk in this project.

"Kokoro" will speak in a tounge of imagery and words that hopefully will create rythm and journey to the reader. The book will touch on spiritual matters as well as the practical side of things.
When spending time with an artist like Horiyoshi III it becomes all to clear that he is as fluid as he is firm in his tradition. The power of his creativity suggests that of Hokusai and Kyosai and maybe his legacy will be timeless and inspire thousands to pick up brush and ink, needle and hand.

In all honesty, making "Kokoro" is like catching a fish with your bare hands.

(photograph by Matti Sedholm, Horiyoshi III's studio, Yokohama, Japan 2009)

Thursday, 15 July 2010


(photograph made by Matti Sedholm at Nanzen-in, Kyoto, Japan, oct 2007)

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

When stuck.......

Being selfthaught photographers makes for both strength and vulnerability at the same time. Strength comes in the form of freedom. If you don't have any rules, often you're left free to explore, trying and faiingl, discovering new paths to walk down. Vulnerability comes in the form of not being really shure sometimes that the path you've chosen is the right one.

Of course, there's no harm in being confused when it comes to photography. After a number of trials one eventually arrives at the right place, but searching for guidance from experienced photographers is a way to be humble towards yourself and your creativity. If left totally alone, there's a big risk of your ego self taking over, weaving its usual web of illusion and hindering you from seeing. Of all the arts I've tried my hands on during this life, photography is the one where words more often overtake the role of actually creating.

There's the matter of equipment, compostion, digital processing, printing, showing and a thousand other major and minor issues. They are all equally important or unimportant depending on the moment and the photographer at any given time.

When stumped I read Ken Rockwell's writings on the subject. He writes equally on the art itself as well as no bullshit, hands on practical reviews on critical gear, free of overscientific mumbo jumbo. His way of seeing it is not neccesarily mine all the time, but the attidude is invigourating.
Be shure to visit Even if you're not a hardcore photographer you will find bits and pieces useful for the creator of any art.
/Senju(Matti Sedholm)

(photograph captured by Matti Sedholm in Gion, Kyoto, Japan 2005. It was my first photographic trip to japan, and I was using a compact camera that I had owned for a few months. I knew absolutely about how to make photographs, still some good ones came out of that camera.)

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Friday, 9 July 2010

The constants of Irezumi and photography.

The mirror is there for polishing. If you get lost in the reflection you will lose the urge and settle for an inevetable "almost". Irezumi is a craft and an artform slowly in progress since practically thousands of years. Though the actual tattooing first began in the Edo period (1600-1868), the twists and turns leading up to that specific moment are of the greatest value. None can exist by itself alone, and human life is what makes Irezumi. Not tradition, not rules, not aestethic values, because tradition evolves and breaks away, rules are broken and the aestethics change rapidly.

Nevertheless, if one is to have even the slightest peak at success, history has to be learned and a foundation must be firmly in place. Merely acting upon ego will result in worthless charades passed off as individuality and genius.
Bend your head, be humble and assume your position along with all those that came before you and all those in line after you. Your time here will be glorious and rapidly forgotten. Impermanence is a fact. Deal with it.

The same goes for photography. I was a genius when I started out with cameras and today I am a fool. This is true for anything creative. The further up the mountainside you come, the further away the peak gets. If you keep polishing the mirror you will one day realize that there is no mountain to climb, and you had arrived before you were even born.

Today my sinuses are swollen and the nose running like Bolt. It's the hayfever season for me.
Better make the best out of it. How?

/Senju (Matti Sedholm)

(photograph (ghost) captured by Matti Sedholm in Gion, Kyoto, Japan september 2009)

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Irezumi Kyushu Style.

Honda-san (apprentice of Nakamura-san) and Kofuu (Alex Reinke/Horikitsune), after having sushi breakfast in Fukuoka. This was captured in September last year when Kofuu Senju visited Nakamura Toshikazu on Horiyoshi III's advice. A meeting that later resulted in the plans for a book on Nakamura-san (hopefully to be released autumn 2011).

(photograph made by Matti Sedholm, Fukuoka, Japan in september 2009)

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

abandoned nest,
a plum tree.

(haiku by Basho 1644-1694)

(photograph captured by Matti Sedholm, Kyoto, Japan september 2008)

Monday, 5 July 2010

The Kofuu Senju Horiyoshi III dragon book; initial design work began today.

Today was the first day in Senju's (matti Sedholm) new tiny, but definetely good spirited office.
The computer's hooked up and the double screens were callibrated, as the scanns of Horiyoshi III's paintings to be feautered in the upcoming book, "Ryushin", were being copied on to both internal and external harddrives for safety reasons.

The overall design of the book was drafted by Matti Sedholm and Alex Reinke in Yokohama during the visit there in april earlier this year, and what now remains is the painstaking adjustments of the scanns and realizing our vision into a real living book.

The goal is to create a high quality reference book, built to last both spiritually, designwise and physically. As this will hopefully become a often used work reference for tattooists and other artist seeking guidance regarding the Japanese dragon and the related heroes, deities and stories, we try to make it work as such. Horiyoshi has brushed the Japanese titles for every painting in his own hand, and this week will be set aside to correctly scan and process that material as well.

More news as it unfolds.

(photograph by Matti Sedholm, captured in Horiyoshi III's studio, august 2009)

Friday, 2 July 2010

Photography as a perfect liar.

There's very little truth to be found in photography. Whether you're taking a picture of your one year old staring in amazement at the candles on his birthday cake, or trying desperately to communicate the sensation and mood of walking the streets of Gion, the old quarters of Kyoto.

In both moments there's a photographer involved, and where there's a photographer, you'll find subjectivity without a doubt. The illusion of the machine stealing that split second of time is as grand as the Great Buddha at Todaiji in Nara, but it's all an illusion. Even if the camera documents whatever you choose to point it at, it never acts spontaneous or out of free will. It's a slave that tolis the fields of the photographers wishes, needs, urges and desires.
As soon as you even lift the camera to your eye, you have separated yourself from reality and started to create a subjective image of your own inner self. Maybe that's why photography can be such a strong medium.

It takes you on a journey inside an individual persons soul and psyche, whispering truths about the photographer rather than the photograph itself. The subject matter at hand, what your eyes see and often believe is the photograph itself, is a disguise and a mirror. It's complicated and easy. The human being lives, accumulating experiences that colors everything a human being does on a daily basis. Basically we are all creating a web of illusion that we pass of as reality, and it's this subjectiveness that makes us want to capture a moment or a person with our camera.
So we steal this second, making it ones and zeros, or if analog, we capture it on a chemically coated peace of film. It's pretty amazing that time can be caught like this, isn't it? Just reaching out and snatching it! It's definetely one of humankinds biggest achievements as far as technology goes. It's up there with writing, speaking and printing. At least in my book.

After the capturing comes the process of turning it into a photograph proper, so you do what you do and what pleases you. Or often what you think pleases others. All in order to tell your truth.
After that comes the showing of the photograph. So you hold it up for another person to see, and they really do that. They see it perfectly clear. Always.
But they see their photopgraph, not the one you captured, because they exist within their own personal web of illusion. So what they see is colored by their own experiences and in that way it really becomes their photograph. All intentions and desires for some real truth made into a fine point of light streaming in through the lens are in this way lost and turned into another piece of chaotic randomness that is the reality of human existance. And this is where the beauty really lies, isn't it.
We aim to capture truth, and it becomes a lie that becomes another individuals truth.
It's all truth, if you think about it, really.
But it's a lie.
That is true.

(photograph made by Matti Sedholm, in Gion, Kyoto, Japan 2007)