The Karate Masters Portrait Project
The Karate Masters Portrait Project began in March 2012. The goal of the project is to photograph the highest ranking karate masters living in Okinawa, the birthplace of karate. Their unparalleled knowledge of the martial art makes them of great cultural importance both in Japan and worldwide.
James Pankiewicz, owner of the Dojo bar in Okinawa, had discussed with me how there were few, if any, good photos of certain karate masters. There was also little consistency in the images available. Many were blurry, low resolution, noisy, or simply snapped from a distance at a competition or demonstration.
James and I decided to begin the Karate Masters Portrait Project. We would take studio lighting, a black backdrop, and a high definition digital camera (the Pentax 645D) into the dojos of the karate masters. The portraits produced would hopefully become a historical record of the grand masters of Okinawan karate at the start of the 21st century.
It is an honor to be undertaking such a challenge. My only regret is that we hadn’t started sooner. Recently two of the Okinawan karate masters passed away, both of whom we’d hoped to photograph. Nagamine sensei and Nitta sensei will be remembered in the minds and hearts of thousands of their students around the world.
As soon as I started posting images from the project on my blog, I began to get requests from karate students asking if the prints would be available to purchase. James and I asked the permission of those masters we’d already photographed, and we were given the go ahead.
Fine art prints of the karate masters are available in two sizes.
11×16″ (A3) US$125
16X22″ (A2) US$175
Prints are created using archival quality Hahnemühle cotton rag photo paper and pigment inks. It is possible to make prints cheaper using generic papers and dye inks that quickly fade, but I only want to produce the best possible product. This may seem obsessive, but striving to achieve perfection is not just my goal, but is perhaps at the heart of every stance or kata. My hope is that they will take pride of place in dojos around the world.
Prints are shipped flat rather than rolled, and are mailed using insured and traceable international express airmail shipping. Images are dispatched within one week of ordering and delivery usually takes around 4 to 7 days. Shipping is US$25 dollars per order. Prints may also be collected from The DOJO Bar in Naha, Okinawa. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss which prints you would like to purchase. Payment is via Paypal.
Purchasing a print not only helps fund the Karate Masters Portriat Project, but a portion of the print fee will be given to the karate master in the purchased image to help maintain their dojo. Each of the karate masters photographed has also been given two of the prints for display in their own dojo.
Hopefully in the future we will hold an exhibition of the portraits, and possibly produce a photo book. These will, however, be some years in the future. Right now, you can see the latest images in the Karate Masters Portrait Project on either Facebook or Flickr.