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Photography in general at Letters from Japan

Archive for the ‘Photography in general’ Category

Photography Tour to Japan #8: People in Kanazawa   no comments

Tomioka and Tsuyoshi, photo by Tom

It has been almost nine months since I visited Kanazawa for the first time. There I met people who have been helping me organize this trip and they have been waiting for our arrival in Kanazawa.

Nagae-san and her assistant, photo by Cindy

The first day, we met Nagae-san who was the key person who connected me to pretty much everyone who helped us organize this trip. She was the hub for everyone involved not only in Kanazawa but also in the entire Noto Peninsula. If I were to single out one person to get credit for this trip, she would be the one without a second thought.

We also met Mr. Tomioka who is a local photographer. I met him at the salon when I was visiting Nagae-san for the first time. Upon hearing that I am interested in photography, she picked up the phone, and asked him to come over to meet me. Only then, I decided to bring some of his work to Philadelphia for an exhibition. These photographs were taken in Wajima and the surrounding area in the late 1950’s.

We were lucky to meet him on the second day of our trip to see his photographs and show our photographs. He looked at everyone’s photographs and gave thoughtful comments after he showed his recent work. It was a sort of cultural exchange through photography. This is the sort of thing that is difficult to arrange if you are traveling only as a tourist. Again, photography is the medium through which we connect people in this trip. It is what brings us together.

What amazes me about Mr. Tomioka is that he actively continues his creative activity at the age of 76. He goes out to photograph and comes back to his darkroom to process his films and make prints. I would assume that at his age, he would have enough images to keep him busy, but that is not his style. He is having a small exhibition at the salon next year, and he is working on another body of work as well. We will see what kind of photographs he will come up with next year when we come back.

Hashiba-san and his friend, photo by Tom

Another person we met at the salon was Hashiba-san, a local flute player. He was the one whom I met at the temple when they were changing the shoji screens. He came to the salon with his friend to play two pieces of music for us. His flute is made out of bamboo, and looks very simple. Everyone tried to see if they could make any sound at all. He played one traditional piece as well as one which he composed on his own. His own piece was titled “Pine and Wind,” and it is set in the late fall looking at a pine tree. This is definitely a somber atmosphere which goes very well with the sound of his flute.

Along with many temples and beautiful gardens to visit, these occasions meeting local people have made our days in Kanazawa fulfilling and quite unique.

Written by projectbasho on September 11th, 2008

Photography Tour to Japan #3 : Camera of choice and format of choice   no comments

Posted at 11:17 pm in Photography in general

One question that photographers often entertain when they travel is which camera to bring with them. Of course, when an airplane is involved, you cannot bring everything so choosing which cameras to pack becomes a serious as well as an entertaining question for photographers.

For this trip, I am bringing two cameras with me: a 7×17 banquet camera and a 4×5 field camera. It may sound a little crazy to carry these large cameras for a shooting trip where we will be relying upon public transportation for travel. Of course that doesn’t deter me. This old banquet camera has been my camera of choice for the last couple of years. Still, this will be my first trip with the big cameras traveling this extensively and without a car. I’m sure it will prove to be an interesting challenge at times, but I hope I can enjoy the whole experience.

When I started using the 7×17 camera, I connected to the work of Lois Conner. Conner created beautiful images of Chinese landscapes with a sense of place and a dynamic composition. She uses the elongated format so adeptly and I became intrigued by her description of how she works. For her, the difference between regular format and these panoramic format cameras is about more than seeing.

She describes that when she composes in say, an 8×10 format, that it is done such that it visually radiates from the center. In other words, an image has a main feature in a photograph which acts as a visual locus, and the rest develops around that. Whereas with an elongated format like 7×17, it becomes more effective to create images with a sweeping narrative as if you are reading a photograph, usually left to right. Certainly she has been influenced by her own studies of Chinese scroll paintings and learning about how painters traditionally frame images whether horizontal or vertical.

I have been primarily shooting 7×17 for a couple of years now. When I went back to Japan last December, I was interested in shooting sceneries of Tokyo with 7×17 format. I wanted to see if I could create visual narratives of the busy streets of Tokyo similar to how I shoot in Philadelphia.

One issue I had while I was in Tokyo especially when I was in my own neighborhood was the narrow streets. I suppose that I had become so used to the size of a typical American street and forgot how narrow the streets are in Japan. Narrow streets mean that you cannot step back far enough to photograph unless you have to have a lens with a wider angle of view. Unfortunately, I ended up not shooting in my neighborhood simply because of this.

I did manage to photograph other sceneries while I was in Tokyo. Near Tokyo Bay, I carried the camera around wondering how rivers flow and work. Also, around my grandmom’s neighborhood, I photographed the street scenes. I have always been intrigued by how visually chaotic and confusing these small streets are in Tokyo. Unlike streets in Philadelphia where the majority of the streets are organized in grids, these streets have a sense of life as if they are some sort of organism.

This time, I am interested in photographing small streets in Kanazawa (with hopefully a little different approach ) as well as the coastal views in Wajima and Suzu. As always, I am open to anything that challenges me visually, so we will see what images I will come up with at the end of the trip.

By the way, I am so used to this elongated format now that I can no longer take horizontal pictures with an 8×10. Now, I primarily use this format for portraiture and I shoot vertically. The 8×10 now seems constricting in a way I never saw before. This sounds funny, but it is very real to me.

Carrying these two cameras, a tripod, film holders and many films in very humid weather will be quite an exercise. Aside from the images of these beautiful places, this trip will provide a much needed workout.

Written by projectbasho on August 28th, 2008