I’ve photographed the Tokyo Sinfoniaa fewtimes over the last couple of years. The first proper shoot was just a week the March 11 earthquake[L] when they bravely went ahead with a concert in Ginza. I remember the rehearsal being interrupted by aftershocks.
This shoot was in rather more relaxed circumstances. I took my lights and a dark backdrop to Ginza and photographed the musicians as they were waiting to perform.
I used a very simple lighting setup – two speedlights, two umbrellas and a backdrop. All I needed then was 19 smartly dressed musicians with instruments and smiles.
Explaining the Shugendo religion would be a job for a book, not a blog post. But let’s just say it’s a colourful mix of Buddhism, Japan’s ancient Shinto religion, and even more ancient native animism.
Shugendo’s adherents are known as Yamabushi – men (and a few women) who undertake arduous ascetic training in the mountains. Favourite Yamabushi activities include hiking for miles on end, standing under waterfalls and walking on hot coals.
These photos are from a press-tour to Dewa-Sanzan in Yamagata, famous for its three Shugendo mountains. As you can see there was some great weather and I got lots of photos of our Yamabushi guide on two of the mountains: Haguro-san and Gassan.
Unfortunately, photography wasn’t allowed at the third, Yudono-san. That was truly an incredible place, mysterious in the mist and rain. But you’ll have to visit yourself to see it!
I’ve done a few fun interview portraits recently. This one was of planetarium designer Takayuki Ohira. He started off making papercraft projectors in his bedroom and eventually came up with a professional-grade device that could show orders of magnitude more stars than any other. He’s quite the nutty professor, and a household name in Japan.
I wanted to show his projector in action so we set it up in a small meeting room at his company office. The light on his face came from a small hand-held maglite wrapped in foil to narrow the beam.
Pop fact for Nikon users: it was fun to learn that the projector uses off-the-shelf Nikkor enlarger lenses.
It took me quite a few years of working as a photographer to get round to a proper project, but In 2012 I started not one but two. This is the second. (The first is here).
Hard to believe now with the pro-nuclear LDP just voted back in, but last Spring and Summer there was a real sense that the Japanese people were rising up against nuclear power. These were the biggest popular protests since the anti-Vietnam demonstrations of the 1960s.
There was a lot of argument about exactly how many people took part but the last July the Financial Times reported that 75,000 people were at one of the largest Friday night demonstrations.
Things are very different now. The protests have dwindled down to a hard core of determined, largely elderly, activists.
During the summer and autumn I covered several of the protests and set up this Facebook page (please like it – I am uploading new photos one by one).
Personally I am against nuclear power, but my main aim taking these photos wasn’t to put myself on either side of the debate. Rather, I wanted to show how strongly Japanese people feel about this issue.
Popular protest in Japan is very small scale and low key compared to the UK, where I come from. The protests really felt like an exciting time for Japan and Japanese democracy. Such a shame that they now seem to be petering out. As it happens, I’ve struggled even to find publications willing to run these pictures so far.
Oh dear, I’ve been badly neglecting this blog recently. Apologies.
As a first installment in a substantial backlog, here are a few more photos from my Tokyo Parkour project. (Must get that going again). They come from two shoots: one in Shinjuku after dark and the other in Shibuya in the early morning.
I learned an important lesson doing the night shoot, namely: “remember to check the weather forcast and the train timetables”. There had been a huge typhoon the day before which gave probably the most spectacular sunset of the entire year so far. Of course, I arrived much too late and only had time to get a few shots with the pink sky in the background.Most were taken with a 16mm fisheye. It’s amazing how the distortion makes the traceurs look like they are flying.
With the Shibuya shoot – at the unearthly hour of 6am – I thought it would be interesting to photograph the traceurs without them moving at all.Glad we got there early in the morning. The light wasn’t quite as good as I’d hoped, but there weren’t too many people around and it wasn’t too hot.