Took me a while but at last I could take a photo of this road sign.
After moving away from London three years ago, I am back in “the capital”. I enjoyed the trip, not least due to the fact that for the first time in my life, travelled first class with British Airways. A pleasant surprise! On my arrival it poured down with rain and generally the weather is very cool. It must be around 20 degrees, quite a shock compared to Japan. I was picked up from the airport and the long way to the hotel along congested roads took me past all the sights of London. As can be expected, not much has changed. Surprised to be asked for the way, even though I have just arrived here myself – no longer an obvious foreigner! I am heading out this morning for a nice walk along the river Thames with an old friend, looking forward to a nice pub lunch and a pint!
Fuji Acros, rated EI 50 in my new Jobo sheet film drum, 18min in Rodinal
One of the reasons I love large format photography more and more. Hard work, but when it all works out it can really take your breath away. First time I used Rodinal on Acros from my usual Xtol. It seems to work very well. I must try again. I have also finally bought a motor base for the drum which should arrive soon, so there is no longer a need to rotate the drum myself for almost 20 minutes.
Posting is getting a little sparse here, I know. But in a way there is so much and so little to say at the moment. I am still working on photo matters, but time seems scarce right now and priorities prevail.
Future plans include a business trip to London next week and acquiring an iBook once the new models are out (any day now), so I can write on the train. I have changed commuting route last week, so I have a seat every morning and don’t need to change trains. This gives me an extra hour to answer email, maintain the shop etc. Talking of the web shop, it is very quiet in July, after a record month in June. I suppose people purchased for their holidays and now they are gone.
Enjoy the summer everybody!
I have been struggling with some weird behaviour of the new view camera and while equipment is usually the last thing to blame in your photography, this time it turns out I have done everything right (well, who knows) and, to put it bluntly, there was a bloody hole in the camera! I bought it from a friendly gentleman on eBay in the UK and according to him, the camera was serviced in London by an outfit called Teamwork. Excuse my directness, but they did an absolutely crap job. Obvious internal parts were missing before and now this. This reminds me of the London days, where once a bunch of incompetents called Albion Computers (an authorised Apple Service Provider) repaired my iMac to death, removing my hard disk, memory and other parts in the process, and refusing to put things back together (full story here: How Albinos shrank my iMac – this letter is one of many I had to write in the UK). Moral of the story: stay away from those people and appreciate Japanese service while you can.
The title of this post is a quasi-quote from the artist and legendary street photographer Garry Winogrand. It has become my main mantra of late, not only about photographic matters, but about life in general. It is a very difficult objective to keep an open mind, especially since I think that the interpretation of experiences and resulting conceptions are very closely bound to human nature, a natural way to make us feel emotionally safer. Brands and advertising, for example, exploit this longing for familiarity and make us reach out for packaging and colours we have seen before.
In itself, there is nothing wrong with this. However, there are certain times, if not most of the time, where we should be self-aware of our preconceptions, if only to prevent us to become easy prey for stereotypes and prejudices, positive and negative. Maybe we have heard something similar several times from from different sources. Or we have heard fractions of facts and our creative mind tries filling in the gaps. The purpose of this is to help making sense of the world in one way or the other, if only temporary. Would we feel the full effect of knowing that we know nothing, we would probably go crazy.
It is in this period of thought, where an email from a friend reaches me, and I am surprised that it discusses a very similar thought that I have been having and have recently articulated in an article for the German-Japanese Society of my hometown. Many people think of Japan by imagining sushi, temples, geishas and other “typical” things. While of course these things exist here, they by no means represent Japanese culture. In fact, I think they are rather offensive as they simplify and distort reality.
In my photos I am trying to show aspects of daily Japanese life, any and all aspects I personally come across. And even though I am not trying to exclude sushi, temples and geishas, unlike others I am also not looking for them. I capture what presents itself to me, and those obvious Japanese things are just several of many, many other things that make up the puzzle of this country. I can’t say I have succeeded, but just like they say in British news when they don’t know for sure: “The Police are keeping an open mind.”
I am quoting – with permission from the author – an article written for Tibetan Review:
Shattering the Shangri-La Stereotype: Tibetans re-branded
Continue reading No preconceptions
This is a series of portraits shot while I was living in London. I don’t know whether or not it is a best selection. It looks rather average to me, but I pretty much had a direct no-frills style at the time, and after all was a novice. For the paid work I mostly went into the subject’s homes or work place and shot in an improvised environment. The studies seem almost all studio work, and self-portraits at home. While it is dated 1995-2002, the photographs are mostly up until 1997 or so. After that I stopped taking anything worth showing publicly.
Thanks to the encouragement of friends, I have begun again to fire the shutter in anger i.e. seriously for photography’s sake and not for holiday pictures or similar snapshots. I have decided to put out this old stuff, and this little explanation around it to somehow put an end to the previous chapter of my photographic pursuit. It’s about time.
I am making a fresh start, armed with the experiences of the past and the little personal wisdom I have gained in those gap years. There is plenty more waiting to be discovered and I am looking forward to the challenges I have set myself for 2004.
This photo brings back memories at around Christmas time. I found it in a pile of my shots for that job, but this one was taken by my debutant assistant, who I had foolishly sent out and about to take some party pics in black & white.
Many moons ago, I left my job to study for my Master’s degree. The place at university only came by surprise, thanks to many helpful circumstances and people. My plan was to work as a freelance full time and I had equipped myself adequately already (extra camera bodies as backups etc.), but when the opportunity for college came up I scrapped the photography plans and went on to study. It was the right choice and all went well.
Still, I always kept in touch with the people at work. It was a great environment to work in, probably the best I have experienced so far. I have learnt very little professionally after I left the UK, but that’s material for another post. As the story goes, I became the official photographer at the company’s Christmas party, which I also sorely missed after I left the company. I joined the party and met all my former colleagues and caught up with what was happening. But there wasn’t too much time to talk, as I was there to work and I worked hard for my money.
That past job in London was very special, and I believe such a thing will never happen again. And of course, as times change it simply cannot. We were a great bunch of people, mostly foreigners coming to London in the mid-nineties, the centre of cool, where all things creative were happening. The glorious days when the battle of the bands (Blur vs. Oasis) was on, the streets were buzzing with creativity, it seemed every week a new magazine was put out and it was great. On my days off I trekked the offices of picture editors of those mags to ask for my chance, and I got it. I met a lot of strange and interesting people in strange and interesting places, cold and humid London flats heated only by the gas cooker. One of them was photographer Marcus Piggott, who worked with a great Scottish girl named Tessa Williams on an underground-ish magazine called X-magazine. “Give Marcus a ring, he’ll look at your stuff”, she said and I went off to Goldhurst Terrace, NW2 one night with my portfolio.
They were excited and soon I shot for the magazine. For example Andrew MacDonald, the producer of the films Shallow Grave and Trainspotting. In fact, my shot was just after Shallow Grave and before Trainspotting, and my brief was something along the lines of “Well, he is doing this film called Trainspotting, which is a term for a hobby for some people, and the film has to do with drugs. Shallow Grave was a sort of scary movie. Take a picture of him.” Which is what I did. Needless to say I didn’t have the slightest idea of what a success Trainspotting would turn out to be, neither had I heard of any of those people, like Ewan McGregor.
I bumped into Marcus Piggott several times over the years in London. He was still pursuing the photography, even after I had given it up. Then, about a year ago I read about him in the arts section of the German magazine Der Spiegel: he and his boyfriend Mert have become some of the most sought-after fashion shooters, taking pictures for the campaigns of Missoni, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Hugo Boss… They have finally made it, whereas I have changed my ways.