Haiku Logo

James Austin
M.A., A.C.E.

Words and pictures can be more powerful than either alone.
Haiku photography is the art of harmonizing timeless images and poetry.

haiku photo
Why are photographers exploring haiku? Creating a haiku poem challenges the artist to observe the immediate moment with care, just as photography does. Nature photographers in particular are drawn to haiku to capture beautiful wild moments. Street photographers too find vivid glimpses into human nature in this art as well.
Whatever your photographic interest, at the end of this article you will discover 6 steps to creating a photo haiku print in Photoshop®. First, lets understand haiku by looking at its past and present.
Haiku Past
Traditionally, haiku is about nature and our oneness with its winds, seas and sensations. Sometimes serious, o�� often comic – haiku was a short poem wri�� en in Japanese in a single line, vertically, on the page. It did not rhyme. The poem referenced a season of the year.
Haiku went far beyond scholarly writing. Long called the “wordless poem,” haiku was a way of life. It was associated with spiritual practice. Poets and common folk alike wrote haiku to praise, describe, and to open the heart and mind. Basho (1644-1694) the best known haiku poet, was a Japanese samurai who devoted his spiritual life to writing poetry.

Haiku Present Wit and Human Nature:

haklu photo Since Basho’s time, Western writers have enlarged haiku’s structure and content. Paul Reps and Jack Kerouc wrote haiku. Richard Wright, African-American author of Native Son, also wrote a series of haiku. Here are two examples of modern haiku. George Swede shows that haiku wit is alive and well:

Thick fog lift's
unfortunately, I am where
I thought I was

Another trend in haiku today is a focus on moments in our postmodern lives. For example, Alexis Rotella’s poetry refl ects an urban emotive tone of some modern haiku: Sunset: riding the merry-go-round alone

Take Photograph, Write Haiku
How do you make photo haiku? Begin by observing a passing moment, like a lightning bolt or a moment of human relations. Starting with an image, think about what you perceived, heard, saw, or sensed during your experience. Your short poem can be about what did occur, or what you imagined might have happened. Use simple language when writing your haiku, and let the word give your viewers a point of view on your image.

For example, one day on a walk I saw this dog in his owner’s arms inside their limousine. He seemed like he was being cajoled by his masters to take a limousine ride even though he did not want to go. Thinking from the dogs’ perspective gave rise to the poem.

A Short Poem from the Soul
Notice that the limo dog haiku departs from haiku rules we learned as kids: write using 5 syllables on the fi rst line, then 7, then 5 syllables again. Why? Haiku does not need to use a tight 3-line structure of exactly 17 syllables. Originally, Western haiku translators misunderstood the Japanese meaning. " Sound/symbol " was falsely translated to mean "syllable" when Japanese haiku was translated to English. However, sound symbols are not equal to English syllables, and 10 to 14 English syllables, not 17, more closely matches the length of the haiku poem (Cor Van Den Heuvel, 1999).

Modern haiku can be one, two or three lines; what counts in understanding haiku photography is keen insight into a signifi cant moment. Creating haiku photography means taking the viewer into the full import of an experience, not writing fancy poetry. To paraphrase the poet John Keats: poetry should be great and unobtrusive, a thing which enters into one’s soul, and does not startle or amaze it with itself, but with its subject.

A Path to Photo Haiku
Digital photography is an excellent path to photo haiku. Why digital? Digital photography is fast. Pixels can be processed on the desktop. This immediacy promotes the writing of a short poem while the image is fresh in memory.
The Internet is a forum to show new arts like tag-team haiku photography, in which one person can upload a photograph and a diff erent person writes the accompanying haiku. The father of the photo-haiku genre, Abe Museki, writes: “photo-haiku has succeeded in the Internet world because photography matches haiku so well. ”
Since a digital image can be changed, this tractability adds shades of meaning to a haiku poem. For instance, for the picture of an orangutan at Colorado’s Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, wiping a tear from her eye, I shi�� ed the ma�� ing and the shade of the picture to match the haiku’s mood. The orangutan has the blues. Sometimes a poem expresses nuances of the natural world not seen in the image itself, such as the complex emotional life of the great apes.
One question to ask when writing haiku: "Does the poem let me see the photo in a way I’ve never seen it before?" Another inquiry to consider when making a haiku photo is "Can I sense a meaningful presence in this haiku photo moment?"

How to Create a Haiku Photograph in Photoshop

Step 1: Open your photograph using File > Open.
Step 2: To add text, fi rst increase the Canvas Size under Image > Canvas Size and add 300 pixels to the width. If your picture was 800 pixels, make the width 1200.
Step 3: Likewise, add 400 pixels to the height. Note that you can customize the canvas color by clicking Canvas Extension Color at the bo�� om of the Canvas Size dialog box.
Step 4: Click the Text Tool in Photoshop’s toolbox. Select your font style from the upper toolbar. Type in the text of your poem. Control Enter will move your text to the next line. Click Photoshops check mark to commit your edits. To view your text layer, open the Layers pale�� e by clicking Window > Layers ( F7 ).
Step 5: Position your poem by using the move tool in the toolbox.
Step 6: With text and a picture on two layers, save the fi le as a .psd fi le so you can edit it later. For instance, you may wish to change the color scheme, and this is easier with a .psd fi le.

Haiku photography, then, is a thriving art form in the information age. The rapid growth of digital imaging will support new forms of haiku with fresh possibilities. As a throng of young artists publish their diverse work on the web, haiku photography will continue to grow.
Links for Further Exploration: 1. In Print The Haiku Anthology: 3rd edition, is a superb modern collection of haiku poetry by Cor Van Den Heuvel containing 850 haiku by 89 poets.
O. Mabson Southard was a pioneer of haiku. He wrote Deep Shade, Flickering Sunlight, a 128 page, $16 book at httpp://www.brooksbookshaiku.com/brooksbooks/selectedMabson.html
2. Links On The Web •For excellent haiku with accompanying images, fi nd Shoji and other poets at Haiku Poets Hut ( www.haikupoetshut.com/haikuphotndx.html ).
Michael Rehling’s work is true to the spirit of haiku, at http://www.haikuhut.com/Photo%20Haiku%20-%20Michael%20Rehling.htm
• Other websites devoted to haiku is http://raysweb.net/fall-haiku/pages/011.html where you can enjoy the vision of Mark Brooks, and Photohaikuarts. com, Roderick Stewart’s gallery.
•Ron Rosenstock’s excellent large format black and white imagery is joined with Gabriel Rosenstock’s haiku at http://www.worldhaikureview.org/3-2/rosenstock-photohaiku/pages/01.html.
•Googles directory of haiku related links is the largest collection of links: http://directory.google.com/Top/Arts/Literature/Poetry/Forms/Haiku_and_Related_Forms

About the Author:
Master photographer and writer James Austin, M.A., teaches community college digital photography. He runs Jimages.com, a digital portrait studio and website. Exhibited at the Denver Art Museum, and the Smithsonian Institute, Austin’s life work is about creative seeing in digital photography. His next book is Sight Lines: Eyes and Ideas on Photography.
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