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Inspirations >> Photographer's Showcase Landscape Photography- Part4

The Importance of Using Words to Express the Ideas Behind Photos

GOTO AKI publishes his works in various media, such as solo exhibitions, photo collections, and websites. In this final part of the series, he talks about the importance of expressing your own works in words. Just how important is it to not only show a photo, but also to express it in words? Read on to find out. (Text: GOTO AKI)

EOS 5DS R/ EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM/ FL: 400mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/8, 1/320 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 400/ WB: Daylight
A shot of the sunset hidden behind a layer of clouds taken in Amakusa (Kumamoto Prefecture) at a focal length of 400mm. I purposely composed this image to have a strong graphical element.


A work is made up of both photos and words

Once I reached the stage where I got a constant stream of opportunities for showcasing my works in solo exhibitions, magazines and photo collections (as mentioned in part 4 of this series), the works seemed to take on a life of their own, generating a cycle in which I received requests for new jobs from people who took an interest in my works.

EOS 5DS R/ EF24-70mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 24mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/16, 30 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 400/ WB: Daylight
A shot of the clouds travelling upwards with the wind as the magic hour arrives at Hoei Crater on Mt. Fuji, taken at a slow shutter speed using a tripod and remote release.


The "Full-size Furusato" special site shoot and 2015 edition of the "Canon Calendar" shoot, taken using my EOS 6D, were such opportunities that came about from my works. These were showcased in the "LAND ESCAPES -Japan-" (Canon Gallery) photo exhibition I held in 2013, which was also my first solo exhibition that featured only Japanese landscapes as a motif. Some guests who viewed my works in the exhibition liked them, and requested for me to shoot for them for other projects.

Up until then, I had thought deep down that as long as a photographer took good photos, they would naturally be highly rated. However, as I was working on "Full-size Furusato" and "Canon Calendar", my job required me to not only take photos but also to express various ideas in words, such as by describing my point of view of the works or writing an essay about the shoot. It was through my job that I realised what the final piece of the puzzle was when it came to conveying my works: Words.

Shots taken from the EOS 6D special site "Full-size Furusato". In addition to landscape photos of Mount Chokai in Yamagata Prefecture, I also wrote an essay describing the shoot and my experiences at the shooting location.


Publicity material for the Canon Calendar exhibition. I took photographs over a one-year period for the calendar.


When I submit my photographs to magazine editors, I am often asked to provide a manuscript and captions as well. Whenever I hold solo exhibitions, and talks or lecturers, I almost certainly will be asked, "What kind of considerations went through your mind during the shoot?" Even if you are selling collections of photographs, you will not be able to convey the content of the works to buyers and bookstores unless you are able to explain the content straightforwardly in words.

A behind-the-scenes shot taken during a shooting tour at Amakusa. In this photo, I was explaining to the participants how to set up the camera and use filters. (PHOTO BY TAKASHI MUKAI)


A talk on landscapes at a gallery in Oita Prefecture. The presentation was centred on the works for Canon Calendar.


Expressing the work in words is not simply about explaining the location and subjects. Rather, you have to show your ideas, namely what kind of considerations or viewpoint you had when capturing the images. People have come to expect a story expressed in both words and photos, so I am always placing importance on asking myself why I took the shot, and why I chose that shot.

What about you, dear readers? Are you able to convey your own works in words?


Express your works in words

EOS 5D Mark IV/ EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM / FL: 400mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/5.6, 1/125 sec, EV-1)/ ISO 400/ WB: Daylight
Handheld shot taken at Goshiki-numa, Fukushima Prefecture. The trees reflected on the surface of the water are highlighted, adding depth to a photo that was taken at a comparatively flat angle.


It is rather difficult in practice to put your photos into words. It was honestly a painful process until I got used to writing the words, as I had to search deep down and fish for the right words to use. However, I took it as an opportunity to calmly reflect on myself and improve the quality of my works, and have now come to place importance on setting aside time for myself. I go as far as to switch off my Wi-Fi and isolate myself, just so that I could have the peace and quiet to weave the right words.


A frame from the documentary programme "The Photographers 2" broadcast in Japan. Here,  I am explaining my photos in my own words.

Publicity material for the exhibition linked to the documentary programme.

I wonder if everyone reading this article on SNAPSHOT now is also connected to me through "photos" and "words". If this series comprised only of photos or only of words, would only half of what I want to say be conveyed? I think that photos and words go hand-in-hand like two wheels on an axle, so I will continue to treat them carefully as I believe they convey the full extent of my works.

A scene at the lab where I instructed the printing of photos for a solo exhibition. I need to be able to describe the final image I have in mind accurately using words, or the colours might otherwise not turn out the way I want them to.


For those of you who face the dilemma of being unable to create works as you intended, how about putting what you truly want to say into words? You don't even have to show them to anyone. You just might find the right words hidden among all the things that you want to convey.



A special site for the EOS 5D Mark IV that was produced in 2016. I held seminars in Tokyo, Osaka, and Fukuoka.


And so, we have reached the final article in this 6-part series. Within the limited number of words, I have conveyed the essence of working as a photographer, and as a professional. I am not sure if my story as a photographer in Japan will apply directly to users in Southeast Asia. However, I would be delighted if there were insights that would come in useful.

I hope that I can continue to exchange ideas with you all, using the common language of "photos". I also look forward to meeting you at my workshops and Canon Clinics!

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this series.


Read more SNAPSHOT articles from GOTO AKI here:
5 Reasons Why the EOS 5D Mark IV is Ideal for Landscape Photography
4 Keys to Shooting Pre-dawn Landscapes
EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM: Breath-taking Landscape Photography Even With Handheld Shooting


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Born in 1972 in Kanagawa Prefecture and graduated from Sophia University and Tokyo College of Photography. Goto published a photo collection work titled "LAND ESCAPES" and is also actively engaged in works such as “water silence” an installation that merges photographs with videos.