Chuck Kirchner | Photography: Culture, Ritual, and Spirit | Are-bure-boke


October 10, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

No, I haven't been drinking (not yet, at least) and, No, spell-check did not go awry.  Are-bure-boke is a Japanese term meaning grainy, blurry, out-of-focus. In a Wall Street Journal review of a photo exhibit "For a New Work to Come: Experiments in Japanese Art and Photography, 1968-1979," reviewer William Meyers discusses this style of photography and its major proponents including Shomel Tomatsu. Now, I've never heard of the photographs nor of that specifi style, yet it really speaks to me in terms of using photograph to convey YOUR vision, not the expected vision from following the "rules" of photography.  No grain, all in focus, crisp and clear. When I teach composition and creativity, I do start with the "rules," carefully pointing out that they are "guidelines" and good to know so that when it comes time to break them, you do it consciously and for specific effect, for carrying out your vision. 

When it comes down to it, your vision trumps the rules. It certainly did for the photographers in the are-bure-boke school.  No, your accidentally blurred, grainy, out of focus photos of your children are not prime examples of are-bure-boke. Intentionality is the key.  For more info on this style of photography, check out the WSJ of 10/6/15 or check out this site:

And, yes, without really know it, I've taken photos in that style - intentionally grainy, blurry, sans clear focus. Just didn't know the name! Well, no, that's doing disservice to that style. But, going outside of your normal world view and vision and experimenting with the creative process can result in some worthy or at least interesting and unconventional images.




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