So I decided, with my wife to change life, I was leaving in a big town, and left for the parent’s place of my wife together with our daughter. And the change is radical, from a small flat in the middle of the city to a big house in the middle of…nowhere. From a place with some retaurants, subway, other shops to anywhere, everything takes you 15-20 minutes by car. But the place is really peaceful in the middle of the valley between many small mountains, all I need for a proper recovery.
And what about photography ? As I already explained (why I take pictures) photography for me is everything, it is the only activity where I can forget everything, where my depression goes away. As mentionned , I was in a big town in Japan, and mostly taking street or portrait photography ; now that I am in the middle of nowere what can I do ? Well, I started a new project (Mitani Monogatari) to show the place where I leave but with the technic that I was using in the city, my high contrast Black and White at high speed with a flash and adjusting the ISO according to the distance to my subject. I was mainly using it for Portraits, now I am using it for lanscapes.
And soon the season of Matsuri will arrive so I will have the opportunities to take again pictures of people moreover by being here you discover more people that give you information. So one contact gave us the information of some photo clubs, that’s great even in the middle of nowhere I am building a new life around my family and photography.
Difficult question for some people no brainer for other, the question is quiet controversial in the photographic world.
Should I shoot with a small aperture or a large one, which effect I want to give to my picture or which is my taste in term of final rendering ? The last one is the most critical, bokeh is a matter of taste most of the time. And considering time the more you grow with photography the more you will have to not bokeh. But it is depending also on the type of photography you like, if you like macro or like to take little flowers, the more chance you have to continue with bokeh as it should emphasis on the subject you are shooting at. But on the other hand, if you like street or architecture you may don’t have bokeh on your picture as the whole elements should have a meaning or a purpose to your final goal for your picture.
Most difficult genre is the portrait one and here it is really a question of taste in my opinion, oh, sometimes your background is not great so you don’t want to have it appearing too much in the photo you are taking, but the choice of a background is also a great matter in your aesthetics to the the final result, therefore in that case bokeh is not welcome, not necessary as you should not have anything to hide. By example if you take the great Mark Steinmetz, you will see that mostly everything is in focus, all elements are appearing in a candid way but not simplistic and the list is very long of renown photographer avoiding it or using it very little touch (Patrick Joust, Alec Soth, Todd Hido,…)
Yes in my opinion bokeh should only be used to hide something (OK sometimes you have to, especially in low light siuation) and not to give some flavor to your picture. You will use bokeh when you start using your camera as at first you have somehow the « whaou » effect but this should become borring after a while, unless I mentionned you are in particular genre of photography, bokeh is not really good but that’s my taste, I don’t try to convert anybody, I am just explaining my point of view, in other words Bokeh is there to hide your non-competency of taking picture.
I had never seen a darkroom before, never realized such chemicals were involved, never seen an enlarger, never worked in a room only lit by a red light. Everything was new and fascinating. The place was small, barely enough space for two people – although I start thinking that if the photographer makes the decision for how the prints should be made, printing is a real job, the one of a real craftsman… and, in the end, a photograph is not only the job of one single person.
Lights on in the darkroom, we decided to leave some white borders of 0.6 or 0.8 inch around the picture. It appears totally unnecessary to the novice, but it is crucial for the case pictures should be exhibited or framed. It was something I’ve never really thought of before as the digital world makes us forget about the purpose of a picture and the way to materialize it. We scaled the final size of the picture on a baseboard easel (it is some kind of a plate with rules on the vertical and horizontal sides).
Then we placed my negative in the enlarger film carter, and placed the carter above the enlarger lens. Light up in the enlarger, projecting a positive image of the film negative, we adjusted the enlarger height so that the image projected filled in the size we’ve decided to work with, while keeping moving the baseboard easel to perfectly align everything.
Then, like on a camera actually, we opened the lens to obtain the maximum light onto the baseboard in order to check with a magnifying glass if everything was in focus or if it should be adjusted again. After the last check, we closed the lens by two stops (technically, I don’t know why, but this was our rule). We turned out the light in the enlarger; we turned out the bulb light in the lab; and turn on the famous darkroom red light. Already, it was a phenomenal amount of work I wouldn’t have imagined before entering a darkroom.
Once in the dark, the lab only lit by the dull red light, we took some sheet of photographic paper out of its black protection. But even at this step, things were still on trial. We cut the sheet into four segments in order to make exposure trials to select which exposure timing was necessary to have a correct picture. We decided to expose the four segments of paper to five, ten, fifteen and twenty seconds, under the enlarger light. When negatives were overexposed or underexposed, we also had to place a filter to bring back a correct exposure in the enlarger.
After it had been exposed, the photosensitive paper goes into three baths: the first, revealing the image (one or two minutes), the second (same amount of time), stopping the chemistry process, the third, fixing the image for about thirty seconds. Then, it has to be stocked under clear water, and then finally rinsed. Only after making tests, you know which exposure is the right one for your first print. Still, things are on test. An image, to come to life, goes through different manipulations, like unsharp masking, vignetting, or dodging and burning. I’ve only learnt the later.
Burning consists of giving an extra exposure to the initial exposure on some areas of the image. Dodging is taking out exposure time to the initial exposure. For these two processes, we use whether our hands, small cards, or cones, to enlighten or to darken our chosen areas regarding our personal artistic taste, while giving a motion to our gestures to smooth out the edges of dodging and burning effects. That’s when a flat image directly from a negative comes to life, as a raw image comes to life after it went through the digital darkroom.
It was exciting and amazing to see these pictures coming into “life”. They looked perfect to me, even after the first print. But having a professional teacher, telling you what’s right and wrong makes you realize that you have to insist, that you have to work, to put efforts to create the perfect image. A photograph, indeed, is not only the act of clicking, but also an artistic decision – involving a good amount of maths! I enjoyed how my hands became magic to give birth to something tangible I’ve never experienced before. And every time the image appeared in the developing bath, it was a tremendous moment.
Photo Lab: Place M, 1 Chome-2-11 Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-0022
Cameras: Pentax K1000 (35mm) / Pentax 67 (120mm)
Films: Kodak Tri-X 400 / Ilford HP5 400
Paper: Ilford multigrade FB Classic Glossy – 9.5×12 inches
13 final images made in 7 hours (some prints have 2 or 3 versions)
First my camera is a 28mm wide angle camera so I have no choice but to be real close if I really want to do some close-up portrait. But this doens’t explain why I want to do it with this gear and why so close. I could take their portrait from a longer distance and give more environment to my pictures. But I don’t. I just do it when I am using my film cameras. A Pentax K1000 with a 50mm lens and a medium format, a Pentax 67 with a lens at around 46mm (35mm lens equivalent) or a Rolleiflex.
So the fact to shoot them so closely is a real challenge to myself. For a moment I am pushing the boundaries, the upper limit to my state of mind and finally, in a way, take their souls with me. Yes taking their souls to feed mine, to satisfy myself. It is a kind of vampiric action but of course with no pain except for my shyness. Yes I think this is the main reason of me taking so close pictures of people, try stealing their souls !
It is challenging also from a photographic perspective, as you should avoid taking a picture that looks like a picture you have taken for an ID for exemple ; it forces me to try to be more creative, even I don’t succeed so much, the fact that I am only practicing is sufficient for my purpose as explained above.
Recently I have changed attitude towards this, as now I’m adding a flash to my photographic set-up. In the end I am not so close as I used to do like before but still quiet close. I think the result is even more radical. I have set-up my camera and my flash so all the background is black and only the people faces are appearing, I think it serves even better the original purpose. So I am kind of mixing two projects, Hello you ! and Flashup that you can see on the website. Maybe I should create another project called Flash you.
Maria asked me to write for her blog about the reasons I shoot; this is a real challenge for me as I don’t talk much, don’t ever write, but this time I was asked 3,000 characters, 3,000, come on! It is just so hard but at the same time very exciting and challenging. I can be selfish and just talk about me, my issues and my addiction to photography.
Closed, fat, passive as I said, depressed about all and everything despite having a wonderful wife and kid. That’s me. But photography goes beyond all of these, beyond my surroundings and me. With photography I can finally found peace. Peace of mind, peace of heart, peace of soul. On the other hand, if some day, some time, I shoot and I don’t have a good shot, or what I consider good, I feel even more depressed. Photography is relieving but can be painful also. That’s a great lesson of life, I think.
I don’t know how long it will last, I hope for the moment for the rest of my miserable life. That ‘s also how I see my photography: dark, dirty, simple, but full of details at the same time. I shoot with a Ricoh GR with the high contrast black and white preset, that fits perfectly my state of mind which I can translate into an image, cure myself from the everyday pain by shooting one moment that I freeze into a piece of me. My peace.
Tokyo is grey to my perception. Yes, you can find some bits of color here and there. But they seem lost and faded through chaos, not helping for the harmony. You could tell me: Then why not taking chaos in color? Well, add chaos to chaos, and to me, it ends up to a no-taste type of melting “something”…
Black and white fits Tokyo, definitely. Tokyo is chaos, but full of shapes. You want to glorify these shapes. The old faded, ugly colors, vaguely everywhere, drown the shapes. They don’t give any additional value; on the contrary, they distract the viewer.
Tokyo is grey. People are grey. The salary men wear dark suits, white shirts, and look like a black army (look at photo reporter Nicolas Datiche’s work on salary men). Maybe it’s everywhere the same, but there is something about Tokyo that makes it kind of frightening…. And what best than black and white to help transcending a vision. Black and white unifies the forms, people wearing dark suits and white shirts in a grey environment, and the content, a black army serving capitalism.
Tokyo is grey. Walk its boulevard, small streets, alleys, away from the touristic tracks (they are not far away)… You will understand. Fires and war stroke and destroyed Tokyo more than once in its history. And the city was pushed each time to rebuild faster. It made it ugly, gritty… grey. Tokyo’s colors are useless.
What about Harajuku and Shibuya? The trendy people with flashy colors? First, the idea you had of them disappeared from the streets; fashion and trends change fast here in Tokyo. But once again? Aren’t their clothes some type of uniforms? Their wish to be apart from the society turns them into a group totally part of that society. Japanese have a taste for uniforms, from Harajuku trends to the salary man life. Transform everything black and white and you make the link between the city and its effects on the people.
Light is terrible in Tokyo. Space doesn’t stretched out for letting the light reflects and enchants everything it touches like the light you can find for instance in America (e.g. Stephen Shore, Uncommon Places, Joel Sternfeld, American Prospects, or William Eggleston). Dusk and dawn are short, and in Tokyo, they don’t even have the time to exist. Yes, there is a neo Tokyo type of taste, making the night glossy. But is Tokyo glossy?
I think Tokyo has never been better represented than by its original photographers. From the legendary Daido Moriyama to the rising name of Shynia Arimoto, unconventional for the first one, a classic to become for the second, they all shoot black and white.
Black and white resonates, echoes, shapes everything it sees and translates it to a new language.