A KIND OF ME LAN CHOLY

Pic­tures that have an el­e­ment of mystery and un­cer­tainty can also leave the strong­est lin­ger­ing im­pres­sion

NPhoto - - Nikopedia -

Be­cause mood in im­agery is of­ten the re­sult of an un­der­ly­ing sen­sa­tion, some of those that leave the longest­last­ing im­pres­sion are among the most dif­fi­cult to pin­point.

Here’s one from China (left) and an­other from Ja­pan (right) that are hard to de­fine even in those lan­guages and cul­tures, let alone English, but that hover around a kind of shad­owy melan­choly. Called ‘you xuan’ in Chi­nese and ‘yu­gen’ in Ja­panese, it has been de­scribed as “the pro­found, re­mote and mys­te­ri­ous, those things which can­not eas­ily be grasped or ex­pressed in words”, and “like an au­tumn evening un­der a colour­less ex­panse of silent sky. Some­how, as if for some rea­son we should be able to re­call, tears well un­con­trol­lably.” Heart­felt stuff, and very Asian, but fer­tile ground for pho­tog­ra­phy. As an­other Ja­panese writer put it, “We find beauty not in the thing it­self but in the pat­terns of shad­ows, the light and the dark­ness.” Vis­ually, it works with shad­ows, dark­ness, the just vis­i­ble, low-key ob­vi­ously, and muted or no colours. Down­beat, maybe, but some­thing new for most of us to ex­plore with the cam­era.

Mist and muted colours help evoke a melan­choly

mood in pho­to­graphs

De­sat­u­rated colours, dark­ness, and re­flected light give this shot the qual­i­ties known as ‘yu­gen’ in Ja­panese

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