A blog full of beautiful photos of kendo by Ivo de Haard. Ivo is a Dutch photographer who, among other things, shot a beautiful series about the budo called “kendo“, the Japanese form of fencing. Japan Fans founder Martine spoke with him about his inspiration and background.
“It was an unknown world for me; I knew nothing about kendo, but based on the images I saw, I found it to be a beautiful sport. I had only seen it in a few photos, literally through the lens of other photographers, and I found the way they portrayed it to be very appealing. So I went on a quest: where could I take photos of kendo? That’s how I ended up with the NKR. They gave me some email addresses, and then I took the plunge, met with Sakura Kai in Utrecht, and started photographing them. I still knew very little about kendo, as is often the case with everything I photograph. I am curious, I respect the person, and I investigate the unknown. With my openness, I try to capture on film how I experience it.”
“In kendo, I immediately found the equipment to be very beautiful, as well as the movements, but also the idea behind it, that the tradition in my imagination goes back a long way, that also has a certain attraction. In the past, I have done some budo sports myself, so I understood partly what I saw, but that is different from someone who has really internalized it and is fully into the sport. I photograph many people for whom what they do is truly a ‘way of life,’ whether it’s a soldier, a dancer, or someone who practices a certain sport.”
“Many people think that a photo is always about the person who is portrayed, but a photo tells just as much about the photographer, because that is literally the perspective with which the photographer looks. If my perspective contributes to removing prejudices and assumptions in people, and improves how people look at the sport or the individual, then that is added value.”
“So I had no idea about kendo, so I couldn’t imagine how it works. But I found out gradually during the photography sessions. I wanted to capture the people I photographed as authentically as possible. Genuine and also in a timeless way, so that the photos could also look like they could have been taken 30 or 40 years ago. A kind of freeze in time.”
“I found the respect in the dojo beautiful to feel. As a layman, of course, you see people with weapons, fighting each other, but I have seen in the dojo that everyone treats each other with respect and that people adjust their fighting to the level of their training mates. In that, I saw a parallel from my background as a soldier. Safety comes first among themselves. Everything in the training is tailored to each other, with respect for each other.”
“Still, as a photographer, I consciously remain an outsider. I once photographed ballet, and it may be that I find the photos very beautiful, but it is the person portrayed who sees whether a movement is good or not – not me. That is the difference between the photographer and the person who sees it afterwards. You have to be able to find yourself in the photos that are taken. The most beautiful thing for me is when someone completely recognizes themselves in the image that I portray, because I think a person is more important than what and how it is depicted. Taking a photo can be learned, there are all sorts of techniques to change an image, but the person is the most powerful, because they tell the story that you see in the photo.”
Would you like to see more of Ivo’s work or maybe even be portrayed by him yourself? Then take a look at his beautiful website www.ivodehaard.nl and his Instagram https://www.instagram.com/photo_ivo/. As soon as we realise our dream of a Japanese Cultural Centre in Utrecht, we hope to host an exhibition of budo photography by Ivo de Haard.
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We think that Ivo de Haard’s photo series of kendo beautifully captures the art and culture of this Japanese martial art. His curiosity and respect for the unknown, coupled with his photography skills, help to create a unique perspective on kendo that both showcases the beauty of the sport and helps to break down barriers and preconceptions that people may have about it.