a personal introduction to Japanese photography
I had to go down to the Nadiff A/P/A/R/T bookstore last week and they have a tiny gallery tucked into what must have once been a storage room in the basement. Tending to claustrophobia myself, and having bumped my head a few times on the narrow spiral staircase that descends down there, it may take the prize for my least favorite place to see a photography exhibit.
Totem Pole Photo Gallery, Shinjuku
This is Mr. Uemura. He has been to every single show I’ve had at Totem Pole. In fact, he goes to just about every photo exhibition in Tokyo. He is 90 years old, and will be 91 soon.
Each time he visits he bows as he enters the gallery. We chat for a bit. I take a picture of his camera. From his backpack he pulls out a plastic file folder, and proudly shows me a 5x7 color photo of a festival taped to an aged photocopied sheet of paper expaining the picture in terms of camera, film, f-stop, and shutter speed. Each time he explains that this picture was published in a book of amateur photos some years back. He’s pretty proud of this.
This time while he had his file folder out he pulled out a photo I hadn’t seen yet- a studio portrait of him in his Imperial Japanese Army uniform in 1944. I asked if he was sent overseas- he said no, he was part of an anti-aircraft gun crew assigned to defend Nagoya from B-29 raids.
He also showed me a small published photobook of his pictures- he grinned and told me he’s been photographing for seventy years. The content of his little book runs across decades.
When he leaves the gallery he always turns back, removes his hat, bows, and says thank you.
I’m a big fan of Mr. Uemura.John Sypal's Tokyo Camera Style documents the camera fashion and culture in today's Tokyo.