Traditions: Tatami Maker
A quintessential element of Japan, at least for me, is tatami. It's difficult for me to form in my mind a basic concept of Japan without also visualizing Japanese structures, new and old, that are filled with these simple woven straw mats.
For the next installment to my series on Japanese traditions, I created a few portraits of a gentleman whose profession it is to construct this traditional floor covering -- a fourth generation tatami maker.
While looking around the maker's workshop for places to use as backdrops, there were two areas that caught my eye. The first was a stack of old compressed straw slabs, which once formed the interior section of tatami mat. (Today, it is more common for tatami mats to use a thick synthetic foam sheet in between woven straw mats). The second location was a large pile of rolled up and worn straw mats, which form the outer layer of a tatami mat.
These two piles of materials, which I was told were nothing more than garbage, couldn't have functioned better as backdrops. They both added visual interest to the photos, and both provided an extra degree of information about the subject and his craft.
Due to time constraints that prevented me from getting the variety of shots I typically prefer, the majority of my shots were limited to these two areas. Still, I am plenty satisfied with the images that I came away with.
A few photos from the shoot are below.
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