An extensive interview with Noh master-actor and mask carver Udaka Michishige features in the latest issue of Kyoto Journal, one of the most elegant and content-rich magazines produced in Kyoto. The article, written by noh enthusiast Mizuho Toyoshima, is enriched by gorgeous photographs by Pedro Medeiros and Fabio Massimo Fioravanti. Following the Kyoto Journal tradition, the issue is beautifully crafted, with elegant design and high-quality paper. Purchase this issue or subscribe to KJ here.
Udaka Michishige was recently featured, along with noh photographer Morita Toshiro, in an article on the CNN website, part of a series called Artisans: Japan. See the full article here.
Italian photographer Fabio Massimo Fioravanti is exhibiting his works at the Italian Culture Institute – Osaka (see map below). The exhibition, entitled like his 2014 book, La Via del Noh (The Way of Noh) displays a variety of photographs, providing rare insights into the onstage and off-stage life of noh actors. On this occasion, Fioravanti, who has been photographing noh since the 1980s, and has a close connection with the Kongo school and with actor Udaka Michishige, has printed his works on Japanese awagami paper, produced exclusively with natural fibers, hence providing a more ‘natural’ look to the photographs.
Fabio Massimo Fioravanti – La via del Noh 能への道
October 27th – November 9th 2017
Italian Culture Institute – Nakanoshima Festival Tower. 〒530-0005 Osaka Prefecture, Osaka, Kita Ward, Nakanoshima, 2 Chome−3−18
CRT Milan, AsiaTeatro and the International Noh Institute have organised a four-day event series in Milan, Italy from October 14th to October 17. The events include lectures on the origins, history and aesthetics of Noh, a photography exhibition Fabio Massimo Fioravanti‘s (running until November 1st), and afternoon demonstrations (15-16-17) by INI member and Kongo school certified instructor Monique Arnaud.
Detailed info on the program, times and prices here (in Italian).
*English follows Italian*
Presentazione del libro La Via del Noh Udaka Michishige: attore e scultore di maschere di Fabio Massimo Fioravanti, CasadeiLibri Editore. Intervengono Fabio Massimo Fioravanti (l’autore) e Monique Arnaud (shite e shihan della scuola Kongō) Ingresso libero fino a esaurimento posti.
Book launch of the photo book The Way of Noh: Udaka Michishige, actor and mask carver by Fabio Massimo Fioravanti, CasadeiLibri press. Featuring Fabio Massimo Fioravanti (photographer) and Monique Arnaud (Kongō school instructor) Free entry – while seats last
Italian photographer Fabio Massimo Fioravanti presents his photo book The Way of Noh – Udaka Michishige: Actor and Mask Carver on December 4th 2014 in Rome.
The book contains stage and backstage photographs of Kongō School Master-Actor Udaka Michishige, as well as of his Noh masks. The bilingual (Italian-English) book is already available in Italy and will soon be available on the international market, so stay tuned! The event will take place at the Spazio Ducrot gallery, in the heart of Rome, Via d’Ascanio 8/9 on December 4th (Thu) from 19:00, and will feature an exhibition of Fioravanti’s photographs, as well as a Noh mask demonstration by Kongō School certified instructor Monique Arnaud, who also serves as European Coordinator of the INI International Noh Institute. The INI is particularly active in Italy, where Arnaud is teaching Noh chant and dance on a regular basis. INI Italian members Cristina Picelli and Diego Pellecchia, who have now appeared a number of times on Japanese Noh stages, began their training with Arnaud in Milan. If you are in the area do not miss this chance to hear about Fioravanti’s experience with Noh photography, and to meet Noh instructor Monique Arnaud. Ciao!
Here is the second of a series of posts on photographers who have worked with the INI and with Udaka Michishige. (See the first post of the series, featuring Irwin Wong). This time we have asked Stéphane Barbery to contribute to our blog with his thoughts on photographing Noh. Stéphane is a French writer and photographer living in Kyoto, where he studies traditional arts since 2008. He is currently working on a ten-year book project on Japanese beauty. Stéphane is a regular Noh theatregoer, and has taken pictures of a great number of Noh performances, as well as other performing arts. His personal take on Noh is apparent in the stunning pictures that capture the intensity of performance moments. We have met Stéphane on a number of occasions in Kyoto, and have always been impressed by his passion for Noh and determination to disseminate it internationally. Find out about Stéphane’s many activities on his blog and his Flickr page.
I consider Noh as an atheist religious experience. It is not “just an(other) exotic entertainment”. Noh is the most noble and intense form of collective trance that I know. It purifies the heart and restores faith in the kindhearted nature of human beings. The photographer must thus take all the necessary steps to preserve the masters and the sense of trance in the audience. This means :
1) Being invisible.
a) Avoid strobes or added lightings.
b) Staying usually in the back of the room which implies using a long zoom. I’ve discovered that the equivalent of a full frame 600mm is necessary in order to take pictures that are framed enough so that the non-acting people on stage (specially the musicians and the koken stage assistants) do not show on the background of a picture creating a visual noise that dilutes the emotion of a movement that usually relies on a detail in a fraction of a second. I also want to avoid “static” pictures that, from my point of view, lose all the specific dynamic energy of Noh. It means that I take a lot of pictures and carefully select the most intense ones during the processing phase.
2) Being absolutely silent. Technology (specially after Panasonic Gx7) allows to take pictures in total “silent mode” with no shutter or lens motor sounds.
B) Photographers should never aim for verisimilitude but should try to share the peak of the emotions they felt. During the development of pictures (nowadays, with digital photography, on a computer using Adobe Lightroom), they should feel totally free to modify every parameter of the shot (colour, contrast, lighting, frame, etc.) in order to convey the intensity of what they saw. If the colours of his file, considering the limits imposed by the effort to be ‘invisible’, can be mixed in a noise that does not honor the genius of the colours and patterns displayed on a Noh stage, then it is best to shift to monochrome in order to underline the detail they want to share.
C) The exceptional nature of Noh is not only seen during the short time of the stage but also in the lifetime preparation process of the Noh performers. My dream is to be able to take pictures of all the dimensions of this “behind the scenes” world so that those who cannot get the chance to access it can understand the number of skills required to be a Noh master, but also how intensively those professionals are dedicated to their art. As such they are true sources of inspiration who deserve to be much more honoured than they are nowadays.
This is the first of a series of posts on photographers who have worked with the INI and with Udaka Michishige.
Irwin Wong is a professional photographer based in Tokyo. A few months ago he contacted the INI as he was looking to arrange a photo shoot commissioned by camera maker Hasselblad for the advertising campaign of their new model. We arranged to meet at Iori, a machiya, or traditional house in downtown Kyoto: Michishige brought his costumes and the masks he carves, and his sons Tatsushige and Norishige helped him with the complex dressing process. Irwin brought his camera and lighting equipment, while his collaborator Kondō Keiichi filmed the behind-the-scenes that you can watch in the video below. It was very productive day and Irwin’s pictures are just stunning: make sure to check out his post on the photo session, which also includes technical information about the cameras and the lights.
We can see two characters in the pictures: the female character is the mae-shite for the Noh Uneme, which Michishige performed in February 2014. The costume is a karaori, or Chinese brocade, and the mask is Ko-omote, to portray the face of a young girl. In stark contrast with the delicate female character is the vengeful ghost of Taira no Tomomori, appearing in the second half of the Noh Funa Benkei. Features of this costume are the white hitoe-kariginu, symbolising the character is a ghost, and the halberd and sword. The mask is Shintai, also used for roles of powerful gods.