ArtofNature Montages By Paul Murray

Off the Top of my Head

By Paul Murray

Based in the remote rural township of Karamea at the top of the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand, Paul Murray creates montages from abstract photographs by mirroring, flipping and inverting the images to showcase the art inherent in nature.

Instagram: @pauljohnmurray


To purchase any of these images, please e-mail Paul Murray:

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© Original Image by Paul Murray






Photographic Art Purchase

ArtofNature Montages By Paul Murray Based in Sunny Karamea at the top of the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand, I create montages from my abstract photographs by mirroring, flipping and inverting the images to showcase the art inherent in nature. Instagram: @pauljohnmurray #artofnaturemontage






The History of ArtofNature Photography

Off the Top of My Head

By Paul Murray

I accidentally became famous for photography. Here’s the incredible story…Around the time digital cameras were becoming a thing, I was working as a photo-journalist at the Yomiuri Shimbun (the largest newspaper in Japan and possibly the world) and had access to some pretty fancy camera gear as part of my work…The Yomiuri had all the latest Nikon cameras and the new digital gadgets as well. I bought myself a very expensive macro lens that fit onto the Yomiuri camera I was using at the time…It was an F100 film camera…a very good one. I took it on holiday to New Zealand with me in the late 90s. I was very much into photography as art at the time (and still am) and started taking abstract nature photos of the colours, textures, patterns designs and shapes of nature up close. In addition, I tried to incorporate a metaphor into the images to increase their artistic merit…and I did this for personal self-gratification…It was a hobby, and I enjoyed it very much. When I returned to Japan, all my friends wanted to see my holiday photos from New Zealand.

I was reluctant to show them as the images were not at all like most people’s holiday photos…They were obscure, abstract, macro nature photos…I’d taken them for myself, and I didn’t think anyone else would really find them interesting or even good (I have no formal training as a photographer or artist). Anyway, I finally showed a few friends my photos from New Zealand, and they went nuts….They were VERY complimentary and even suggested I do an exhibition…”Mmmmmm….” I said…”Come and see Paul’s holiday photos”…I mean who’s going to come right?” I really didn’t think the photos were worthy of such attention. Them a friend with a fancy cafe restaurant said she’d fund an exhibition at her establishment…I thought…OK, I’ll give it a go…I had nothing to lose, so I selected 100 photos and had them enlarged to A4 size, I then mounted them on black A3 board and we put them up around the cafe. We were pretty happy with the way it looked and the photos worked well as a display at the cafe/restaurant…They really brought an interesting new dynamic to the place.

We had made a postcard featuring one of the images and sent it out to all the cafe customer database and invited all our friends and asked them to bring their friends. On opening day, I was sitting with my cafe-owner friend wondering if anyone would come…What happened was amazing…So many people came, we had to close the restaurant as the waiting staff couldn’t move…for four days! We had to get a guard for the door and only let about 40 people in at a time…People were lined up outside for about 2 1/2 blocks waiting to get in and see the show…This attracted quite a lot of media attention and journalists started to request interviews with “the artist.” I ended up in Japanese photo magazines, newspapers and even did a radio interview…From that, famous Japanese photographers started to come and ask difficult questions about shutter speeds and aperture settings etc…The show was an unprecedented success, we had it up for one month and sold every photo…some of the images sold numerous times…and OK, I didn’t have high prices on the works (I basically doubled the unit cost of presenting the photos, so they were selling for about ¥5,000 each).

After the success of my “ArtofNature” show, I was offered other exhibitions, two in Ginza! I also exhibited my work in Omotesando, Shibuya, Ichikawa and later Kamakura, Zushi and Hayama.

Why was the show so successful? I’ve thought about this a LOT…Japanese people have an inherent appreciation of the natural aesthetic…Nature is in your art, music, poetry, literature and an appreciation of nature is held dear by all Japanese…Even though most Japanese people live in large urban environments ironically devoid of nature…I think my abstract nature images present a sharp contrast between people’s daily lives of concrete, steel, asphalt, glass, chrome and plastic…and appeal to the inner appreciation of nature all Japanese have. My images enable people to momentarily lose themselves in the beauty of nature and forget the tensions, stresses, complications, and challenges of their respective lives and smile a little inside, remember that nature is wonderful and beautiful and that their problems are insignificant when confronted with such natural beauty. Japanese people actually got the idea of the incorporated metaphor as well…They understood my artistic endeavour…(I showed the same photos in Christchurch, New Zealand some years later and there was absolutely NO interest whatsoever…The contrast wasn’t there…People living in New Zealand have much more contact with nature in their daily lives and don’t really have the cultural appreciation of nature Japanese people have.

My next show was titled “Contemplative Observation,” and it was displayed at Las Chicas in Omotesando. I set a stringent set of criteria for the show…I had three rolls of 36-exposure slide film (courtesy of The Yomiuri Shimbun!) and gave myself one hour to shoot each roll of film. Each image was to be taken in urban Tokyo…A little plant growing out of a crack in the pavement, the patterns on a leaf, the flower on a pot plant in front of someone’s house etc. Also, I was to show every image, sight unseen…meaning I was going to display all the images without having seen them myself (this turned out to be one of the most stressful things I have ever done).

It was physically, mentally and emotionally draining to concentrate so hard for 1 hour and take 36 images…I had to make sure every shot was a winner and had just under two minutes per shot in which to do this. It required intense concentration, and I was also working so I did one roll of film per month for three months…All the photos were taken in urban/suburban Tokyo.

I then got myself a carousel projector and developed the slides, loaded the project tor and took it to Las Chicas where about 200 people were waiting to see the new work…(Remember I hadn’t yet seen them myself)…I was beside myself with stress and thought to myself “My God…I’ll be exposed for the artistic fraud I am…This will be the end of my foray into photography…” So, I closed my eyes and pressed the start button on the projector not really knowing what was going to happen and if the images were any good or not…So 108 slides were beamed onto the wall in the courtyard at Las Chicas in front of 200 of my “fans,” and I was quietly dying…

Well…Again the show was an incredible success…People didn’t believe I’d taken the images in Japan let alone urban Tokyo, some thought they were taken in the botanical gardens of some exotic country…The idea of the show was to show urban-dwelling Tokyoites that there is natural beauty all around, but we don’t see or take the time to appreciate it. We leave our homes, walk to our jobs in a mental tunnel that excludes everything around us…We see, but we don’t observe…My exhibition showed the little things that we all walk right by without appreciating every day…Again Japanese people actually GOT the concept of the exhibition and really understood the point I was trying to make…Another great success. (I’ll never do that again though…too stressful!)

I then did an exhibition in Ginza called “Cryptic Triptychs,” which featured three images framed together to create a little story. This was also successful and the exhibition well attended.

Anyway, I basically became tired of exhibiting my work…and living up to the expectations of others. I was no longer really enjoying photography and the cathartic process I experienced in taking photos…so I quit!

I still love photography and take a LOT of photos and love the idea of photography as art. Fifteen years later, I’m ready now to exhibit again and have the idea of a collaborative exhibition with Belgian Artist Arnaud “PsoMan” Vanderkerkin to expand the concept of the “Exhibition of One Photo” he assisted with in 2012, and present a show in Tokyo in 2019.

About LivinginPeaceProject

Paul Murray is the founder of the LivinginPeace Project. Paul originally from Australia, but have been living in New Zealand for 14 years. Before that he was in Japan for a decade working as a journalist. He met his wife Sanae in Japan and they married in 2008.
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