Black and white to emphasize texture

This last weekend, the TANK and I performed two Japanese fan dancing routines, one of which I was incredibly nervous about.

We are super kakkoii (that means cool). I am the less cool-looking one on the left.


The dances went okay, in case you were wondering.  Not perfect, but enough that TANK and I have gotten plenty of comments about how “skilled” and “cool” we are. (All dirty lies polite white lies.)

One of the things I like best about performing, though, is the chance to see the actual skilled dancers give her a go.  And take pictures of it.  There’s this whole pageantry associated with Japanese fan dancing.  You have to get your face, neck, arms, and hands painted white. Your eyes are lined with both black and pink eyeliner.  If you’re doing a female dance, you’re stuffed and jerked into a kimono that is as much about straightening your lady lines as it is about adding some (the obi, or belt).  And you dance with bent knees and toes facing inward to prove that, no matter how odd the position, you can still appear graceful.

For this weeks photo, though, I thought I’d highlight the power of black and white to emphasize texture and patterns in a photo.  Often times color can detract from a particular feature the photographer wishes to draw attention to.

In this case, it is the ubiquitous Japanese obi.

In color. Note the strong vignette effect to draw the viewer's eye to the center of the photo. The contrast of black and white also helps.

Becomes this:

Black and White, with a focus on the texture and shape of the obi.

This photo is interesting to me on several levels.

Depending on the dance one is performing, the obi is tied in different ways.  For one of my earlier dances, Maiko-han, the bow was left draping on both sides.  This symbolizes youth for Japanese people, as their bows tend to be hastier.  Maiko-han, for those that don’t know, are geisha-in-training, usually under the age of 12.

For the most recent dance, one side f the bow was left draping, but the other side had two delicate folds forced into it.  This is for a more mature dance, but still about unmarried women.  (You can also tell the status of Japanese ladies by the length of their sleeves.  The longer ones = unmarried.  Shorter = married.)

The obi in this picture is stiff and very geometrical.  It’s a stylized version of my normal practice bow, which implies this dance is about harder work–or a more difficult subject than lurve.  The dance itself featured fast movement and lots of foot lifting and stomping, also outside of most love songs.

The second reason I prefer the black and white here is that it gives the photo an older, romanticized quality.  That’s often how us Westerners imagine Asia.  As Japanese Fan Dancing is all about romanticizing their culture, I thought it was a pretty apt additional layer to the photo.

🙂 So which do you prefer?

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