Pillow shots

The best artists are auteurs, their work easily recognizable. And so, budding image makers are often advised to develop an individual style. I’m not convinced true style is something that can be manufactured; I believe it comes with practice and experimentation and time.

To this end, it’s rewarding to study the works of visual artists who have mastered their craft and have a distinctive style, whether it’s Salgado, Leiter or Addario; Caravaggio, Hopper or Banksy; Tarantino, Kubrick or Ozu.

For instance, Yasujiro Ozu’s unique intimate films show a remarkably coherent and disciplined visual and narrative style. Recurring themes, elliptical story structures, formally framed shots, limited focal lengths, minimal camera movement, particular editing transitions and pacing, deliberate compositions and use of specific colors—red is a favorite, and what are known as the “pillow shots” that punctuate his narratives: contemplative frames or sequences of objects, empty rooms, views through windows, architecture, natural elements, and so on that are placed throughout the narratives to convey subtext or emphasise emotions or themes within the films.

In photography, such meditative still-life shots can add similar texture and depth to photo essays and books. With all this in mind, I went out to take some photos. Of course, without a narrative for context, the photos can’t serve as pillow shots, but as a practice, the task becomes an interesting exercise in creating from another point of view, in this case an effort to see through the eyes of Ozu.

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