Old and New

When people travel abroad, it's obviously tempting to photograph things that appear exotic to their eye, hence the propensity to document the best-known tourist attractions. Such subjects are also what their audience wants as a way of vicariously living through through this kind of imagery: luscious nature, unusual architecture, traditionally clad people.

I won't lie that I'm not similarly attracted to, say, Shinto shrines and the most famous sites of natural beauty when it comes to Japan. Yet what I'd almost rather photograph—when there is the possibility to do so—is everyday scenes that are either aesthetically pleasing or attractive in some other way. That is to say, their interest should arise from something other than exoticism.

Take this simple night scene, for instance. It emphasizes the contrast between a row of lanterns and the “window,” through the trees, onto a major street in Shinjuku, Tokyo. Old and new. Traditional and contemporary. 

Yet by being in Japan, this scene strikes me more than similar instances in places like Moscow, which I may even overlook, where old churches can often be found next to sleek high-rises. 

So the goal, perhaps, is to be even more subtle. 

Japanese Streets

It's getting progressively more difficult to update this blog daily, nor am I sure that it's necessary. Nonetheless, I'll try—for now.

I've begun processing some of my images taken on Japanese streets—this series was shot primarily in Shibuya, Tokyo. Whenever I encounter such projects created by other photographers, most of them focus on unique fashions or, for the lack of a better word, weird characters. I, on the other hand, did not have a grand overarching scheme to doing so apart from simply documenting urban daily life (which is not to say that either of these two categories was excluded).

In many ways, the everyday can say more about a city than its historic and tourist-oriented sites. This is the reason I enjoy sitting at a cafe people-watching—even without a camera—when I travel.

Here is a small sampling. 

One Girl, Two Series

As mentioned earlier, book design, indexing, and translation take up most of my time nowadays. As a result, side projects, even highly enjoyable ones, require substantial effort to complete. (If you ever have to manually remove the "blue line of death" around several objects in a 24-inch image, you'd know what photo editing is really like without the "magic button.")

But, this one, or rather, two mini-series, are finally done!

One turned out to be a Dystopian Wonderland.

The other—Urban Ennui. 

I think I've succeeded in creating two completely different atmospheres even without changing the model's look and while working in substantial rain. The former has muted and fantastical colors of late fall-early spring, whereas the latter emphasizes elongated, animation-like bodily proportions created with my fish-eye lens.

Now, can someone fly me back to Tokyo for a summer photoshoot? ;)

Wonderland (in Reverse)

I'm finally finishing up my photo series with a model in Shinjuku Gyoen.

I won't bore you with the technical details of why these images are taking a long time to process. Okay, just one: despite the apparent lack of sunlight, every nook and cranny in the trees contained what I call the "blue line of death." The latter is not visible in a web-resolution photo, but is not very appealing when the image spans 25 inches, and must be removed. Manually. (I sometimes notice the said unsightly blue line on television, but I'm unsure as to whether it remains unedited due to the lack of time or the inability to do so.)

With that in mind, this particular photograph turned out resembling a dystopian Alice in Wonderland. Twisted Japanese trees always look a bit fairy-tale-like, and here, they reach for the girl with their bare branches. Whereas this favorite garden of mine is at its most striking around mid-autumn, the somewhat muted colors remaining from that time work well with the weeping skies. 

Conclusion: considering how pleased I am with the end result of this entire series, I must create more opportunities akin to this one!

Contortions

I've finally allowed myself the luxury of continuing to edit my model's photoshoot from Shinjuku Gyoen last month, and, I must say, the bone-chilling rain provided quite the atmosphere.

There is something very Japanese and, at the same time, somewhat mysterious about the natural setting in early spring, filled with mist and fog, with the occasional pop of color. This slender model in black leather, along with the contorted, leafless trees, adds a touch of Tim Burton.

In other words, I am quite pleased with the end result!

Portrait of a City

Sometimes, you have an idea for a photoshoot, but the City (teamed up with Mother Nature) decides to laugh at your expense (a bit...a lot!). In this particular case, Tokyo chose to engage in some serious "spitting." 

And so you adjust the sails and follow the wind, which led us to the seedy side of Shinjuku (it's a trick: most of Shinjuku is delightfully unsavory!), where my stoic friend had to engage in what I'd call "extreme modelling." (It got more extreme with the other images, as Nature's mockery escalated.)

As you can tell, she handled it in a superb way.

Of course, the non-stop rain turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because the end result—this and the others (forthcoming)—is totally worth it. 

Am I allowed to say that I love my own photograph? It's gritty and slick at the same time. Natural and posed. 

The best part? Definitely the shoe laces!

Now, I'm just trying to refrain from calling these nascent series something terrible like "Shinjuku Vice."