Tokyo (東京) and me
So Tokyo... I have a lot of films that I am processing at the moment. I have a lot of printing to do as well. As I dont have images, but I want to get some thoughts out on the trip now, I thought I would use some images from some of my favourite Japanese photographers in this post.
Image credit to Mika Ninagawa
I am sitting here at my desk at home for the first time in a couple of weeks staring at a bookshelf that is bursting at the seams, and when I think back about the trip that I have just returned from I must say it feels like a lot longer. What an amazing place. Im actually a little lost to put into words how I felt about the place. How much fun I had, and how amazing the people were.
東京 was just so different to any other place that I have been ever. The thing that I keep telling people that struck me almost more than anything else was how quiet the place was. This was apparent as soon as you hopped off the flight in the airport. This is especially true in the morning. It was amazing that you could be in one of the largest metropolis' in the world in a morning peak hour and all you could hear was footsteps as people quietly made their way to their work.
At this time in Melbourne you have so much noise. People rushing in Melbourne make a noise about it. They use their car horns. The rev their engines with some sort of impatience that they think will help them get somewhere faster. In 東京 there was simply a quiet reserve to the morning ritual of going to work.
This all changed a little towards the end of the day. In the afternoon people seem to be a little louder, but I got the impression that this was due to the age of the people that were out in the afternoon. The age demographic of the afternoon crowd tended to be a little younger, so therefore a little louder.
Image credit to Eikoh Hosoe
I went for the photos, as in my own photos, but I went for the exhibitions as well. The image above was actually included in one of the exhibitions that I was lucky enough to see while there. I dont know if the locals understand how lucky they are to see some of the great work that seems to hang on the walls of the many small local galleries. Dont get me wrong, in Melbourne we have things pretty good on this front as well, but nothing compared to what I was able to see in Tokyo. It may have a lot to do with the fact that the tonal ranges and grain structure that is employed by many of the great Japanese photographers is something that appeals to me greatly.
I went for the cameras. I went for the history that the place has with production of some of the finest cameras in the world, and the fact that even the ones they didnt produce they seem to have in abundance. Bellamy from Japan Camera Hunter, who I met when in town, told me when I was there that this is due to the fact that when a Japanese person either collects something or uses something they have a tendency to want the best of the best.
I went for the history that the country has with photography in general. I dont know how to explain it, but it seems to me that Japanese culture holds the still image with a little more regard in some ways than many other cultures of the world.
Image credit to Daido Moriyama
It was really quite inspiring to be in the city. I have not been as productive with a camera for a long time, maybe not ever since returning to shooting film again. Its easy to be productive with a digital camera I think. Maybe easy isnt the right word, but certainly easier. The process is faster so from a sheer numbers perspective its easier to take a large number of images. I shot 35 rolls of film in the 9 days that we were there. A large chunk of this on a single day when the sun finally came out and my wife went to climb Fuji San.
I was also lucky enough to find some magical little places. One of the most amazing was a little bar in Golden Gai called Kodoji. Golden Gai is this little labyrinth of 6 or so narrow little alley ways. My understanding is that after WWII it was an area where some items that were at the time rationed, were available in a little more abundance. Hence the size of the little places. Some of them only hold about 6-8 people, and they are stacked like little cubes on top of each other. Stair cases like ladders going up to the upper level bars.
Another thing that is unique about the bars that took over the little space is that many of them are themed. Its an area that was famous in Japan for building what is a pretty special Jazz scene. I read on another blog post of places where you go and the bar person sings for you, and passes out lyric sheets so that guests are able to sing along as well. This got me thinking that there must be a bar that has a photography theme, so a little googling later, and away we go.
Kodoji is the photography themed bar. All I had to find the place was the approximate location, as in it was in Golden Gai, and the image above of the sign out the front. It really was an amazing place, and as a photograper visiting the city I would highly recommend an adventure to find it. Im not going to post the location cause finding it was half the fun. If for nothing else, then find Kodoji the photo book collection that lines the back wall is simply stunning. If I was alone I think I would have been able to spend hours there flipping through the amazing collection.
Books are one of the other attractions to the city for me, and they are the reason for the 30+kg bag that I managed to haul onto the flight on the way home. Most of the books in on the Kodoji shelves were quite old, and some were very rare and expensive as well, but for some reason I was drawn to one spine while there. It was a book by an artist named Agake Masahito. Not someone that I had heard of before.
Image credit to Agake Masahito
I was able to find a few really cool little second hand shop in the book district thanks to this great little book shop guide I was able to find online. Jimbocho is the book shop district that mainly caters for second hand books. A lot of the books seemed to range from novels to Manga and of course most were in Japanese so I wasnt totally sure of what anything really was. The shops in the link above however specialise in art books, and all of them had great photo book sections.
There was also a great little gallery that I found called Sokyu-Sha. They are attached to a book publisher and it was liking striking gold. I knew so many of the titles that they stocked, and it was at this point that it was becoming evident that some extra baggage was going to be required.
Image credit to Nobuyoshi Araki
One of the other exhibitions that was on while I was in 東京 was of a body of work from Nobuyoshi Araki. Another one of the great artists that the Japanese have produced. It was amazing to actually get to see his work hanging. The image above was one from the series called Love In the Left Eye. The whole series had the right hand side of the photos blanked out like the one above. It was a intriguing and at times confronting series as you would expect from Araki.
The memories that I have from the trip will be with me for a long time, but I have preserved some of them in images that I was able to make when there. I have edited down the full set of photos from over 1000 down to 100. I am in the process of printing these at the moment and will then perform a second edit before posting as a series. I learnt some things about myself as a photographer while away. One of the main things was the respect that I have for artists like Moriyama, Anders Pertersen, William Klein, and to some extent Sobol. There are a wealth of Japanese artists that fit the bill of what I am about to say as well.
Its a respect for the ability to be able to make seemingly simple snapshots with a camera. The ability to then take these snapshots and display them as a series that gives the viewer the feeling of being with the photographer. The feeling of being able to follow their train of thought. Like one is riding with them through their own unique stream of consciousness.
Image credit to Daido Moriyama
This is something that I one day would like to be able to achieve in my own work, and the trip woke me up to this fact. 東京 allowed me to discover one small stream that I hope to show as a start point to many more to come. Photography for me shouldnt be about a single image. It should be about a lifes work. A representation of the artist.
This is how I want to present myself and my work. This is the principle that I want to live by with the photos that I make. The fact that I was able to have time to contemplate this fact while away, and furthermore, the fact that I was able to take real steps in learning to implement it in my work flow is more than I could have hoped from the journey.
Back to printing... And contemplating the post that has been running through my mind about how darkroom printing is an important part of my photographic process. Luckily I have a lot of time in the dark over the coming weeks to contemplate this fact!
I will leave you with one final image from Moriyama. One final image that I think says so much about where I have ended up going with this post.
Image credit to Daido Moriyama