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Line Scan Photographs at Jidai Matsuri, Kyoto

Reenactment of Toyotomi Hideyoshi's procession to meet the emperor in 1596; Jidai Matsuri, Kyoto (20151022_14_45_52)

I used a one-off line scan camera to capture almost 50,000 vertical lines in each image, like the one above, as the parade passed in front of the lens. The resulting photographs show a motionless background while the paraders scanned themselves as they walked towards the Heian Shrine.

The photo above (20151022_14_45_52) recreates part of Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s Procession in September 1596 to introduce his son, Hideyori, to the emperor. More about the history behind the Jidai Matsuri.

Pause with White and Orange, 2015; Jidai Matsuri, Kyoto (20151022_14_53_08)

In this artwork, the exposure is streamed as a one-dimensional vertical line, a smear, over 20 seconds creating a photograph of two dimensions — height and time. From the original scene no width can be captured so when I start the stream I don’t know what will be photographed since I have to begin well before the action does leaving a latent question (what will this look like if I press the button now?) and a recorded answer (this is what happened).

We have two types of Kyoto. One Kyoto contains the traditions performed to invoke nostalgia and sites created to look antique. The other Kyoto we travel past every day on the way to work or school where the contemporary exists as a patch on the ancient, often only locals will notice this assemblage. This is the living historical Kyoto. The Jidai Matsuri most likely fits in the first kind of Kyoto, but it isn’t an uncompromising recreation of a period performed by actors.  Moreover these are citizens of Kyoto chosen annually to represent their neighbourhood in the festival. Some costumes include modern shoes and here the historical image is seen in a the tired look of someone who walked two kilometers holding a giant parasol. And because the festival is routed through busy streets, they wait for traffic lights. The photograph I created here was taken during a red light so the horse was halted, its wrangler slowly paced the horse back and forth in front of the narrow slit of the camera.



What is the Jidai Matsuri?

The era of Heian-kyo started when the capital was abruptly moved to Kyoto over 1200 years ago. Then just about 150 years ago the capital moved away concluding a period of over a millennium of Kyoto’s central significance. The Jidai Matsuri is a procession created to commemorate this era of Kyoto’s history. It ends slightly past the giant orange toori, or gate inside Heian Jingu, the shrine that was built as a smaller model of the original Emperor’s palace.

Tomas with his original line scan camera.



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