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I think none of these two answers are the ultimate answers, if a single photo can speak by itself, it is fine, but if you need several photography to illustrate a story, then it is fine as well. What really matters in the end is the result no? I mean whatever it needsto bring to your goal you will take this path, right?

I don’t believe that a single photography is better than a series, it is just different. And the opposite is true as well.

Another perspective of the problematic can be seen through photo books; by definition, it is a compilation of photos. But is it a compilation of single photos or a series of photography? I believe the truth is between the two and a mixture of the two. Photo books are the perfect medium to liberate the language of photography, by telling a story through the compilation of single photos that speak by themselves; do you follow me? What will make a great photo book, for me, is the capability to gather what Todd Hido is categorizing as a “killer” in opposition of “filler”, which doesn’t bring something to the whole story.  A great story that is filled by many “little” genuine stories.

But to the era of digital world, does this problematic, and by extension, the photo books have a future? Everybody knows about facebook and instagram, I would say they are in the single type category (in case you have quality, which is barely true, they are most of the time, antagonist). You can promote your work to the world with a simple click; it is quick and easy.

But at the same time I have never felt that photo books where so alive, I have the feeling that photography democratized and paradoxally, we never saw so much books in our hands. Internet being just a platform where you can advertise your book but it will never replace it as well as the pleasure to have on a large size a real piece of paper of the photography itself.  Books are the future of digital era! Can you believe that?

What about photography books?

But let’s go back to our story. What I want to see in a book is a story; one of the best so far is the self-titled book from Shin Yanagisawa. Pictures by pictures, he’s bringing us through Japan, each pictures are telling a piece of the story but left alone, it would not say much and that for me is really magnificent, how pictures, put together can perform at once a story-telling that make yourself travel? I will always ask myself but never find the answer; it just exists, period. Don’t ask me to prove it, I will answer, just buy the book; simple as that.

It's never too late to learn

My way to black and white photography

I am in my 40`s now and started photography only three years ago.

It is quite old for starting photography (or any art) compared with photographers who grew-up with a camera in hand.

Inside the photographic knowledge, there is the practice and the gear, trying to make something out of it, of course, but there is, above all, the culture, the literacy. I didn’t know what I was about to discover, thanks to my best friend, who taught me how to use my gear, but the most important, who gave me names, names of famous or growing photographers.

I won’t make a comparison of my now and then knowledge, and will only quote one of these names, one you are familiar with if you read my blog on a regular basis: Todd Hido.

Aside of such artist big names, I also discovered different artists in the genre of street photography, what I have started with. Street Photography is a huge pool of names from many countries. But my favourite always remained Japanese. With my interest for Japanese Street photographers, I grew up in looking at more classical photographers as well, not only Japanese, although mostly.

I now own approximately fifty books in many genres of photography (mainly related to street or documentary photography) and photographers from around the world. I am very proud of my little collection. Thanks to my best friend I discovered a new world that fitted my taste but at the same time that formed my taste.

I will never be such a talented photographer as the people I admire, as they are real geniuses. And because it is too late, in a sense that aside talent, you also need to have practiced a lot (e .g. « your first 10.000 pictures are the worst » – Henri Cartier-Bresson).

In another way, it is not a regret at all, as my masters are masters, and that I have to put them aside to grow up on my own. I can’t be Todd Hido but I can be myself.

Shin Yanagisawa

As I mentionned, Yanagisawa did not published many books in his life. This one is a retrospective of his work. The concept is interesting, basically we follow him as he goes through Japan starting from the North then going step by step to the South.

Untitled

We have mostly landscapes here, sometimes urban landscapes when he goes to big cities throug his journey but also everyday scenes of human life. We could almost call it street photography in the documenting aspect of it; not the funny one (even some of his pictures are made with humor).

He's shooting black and white, like many of his fellow compatriots. Hence they are creating this kind of traditionnal school of Japanese photographers (e.g. please see the the work of Shunji Dodo, Horizon Far and Away 1968-1977). This school had a strong influence on my own works. As since from then I decided to only shoot mostly black and white, trying to depict sometimes the life here of japanese people, but I am more  portrait oriented; that's may be the big difference, but I am not sure as they are so many japanese photographers from the 50s/60s/70s that I don't know yet still properly the work (e.g. Issei Suda).

As mentionned, his journey brings him form the north of Japan  (Hokkaido) to the south (Okinawa), passing through the major cities, Tokyo, Osaka. But most of his portraits of documenting the life of people during his trip are the most significant. Frankly put together, you can feel a real consistency in his approach/view of the lives of the people he met during his trip. And they are very interesting, you can feel the love this guy has for his country of course not everything is perfect in this/his world, but he just show everything so we can also fall in love with these people he has met or this lansscapes he has seen.

The atmosphere of the book is really magical to me; a mix between nostalagia, and documentation, for which the flavor is really simple but never simplistic. Many pictures are iconic to me and makes the book even more classical in its genre. A really true "must-have" for anyone interested into Japanese photographic culture and even for the others as it is a great way to enter in the world of the photographer of his era.

Gentleman

Let my try to answer to this difficult question; potentially very controversial but here is just my humble point of view, you can of course disagree with me.

First, I would say it should be well composed. I mean that everything that should be there, are there, at the right place ; this is often translated by the rule of thirds or the golden rules (rectangle, spirale, triangle,…). That is a kind of basic to make a good photography.

Then the photography should have some spirit; that is another basic, according to my definition, this is something that should be clever, something that make you think; maybe another word should be intelligence.

Finally it needs a soul, that’s maybe the most important one (and different from the spirit). A photography that gives you the impression to be somehow alive, something that is talking to your guts and to your own soul. Maybe it is like love, there are no words to really and properly describe it as it should be.

For me the master for this is Todd Hido; he’s the one that move myself the most with its wonderful pictures (my favorite piece of work is Excerpts from Silver Meadows)

So to be a (very) good photography we need the three mentionned above, I’ve seen many photography that are good in composition but without any soul and any spirit.

The other way around is true also, but I would say that a photography that has spirit and soul but no composition are not bad because they give me some emotions, make me ask myself something and to my opinion that are the most important.

My flesh

 

dark room prints

I hate post-processing. Frankly, I find it boring and hazardous. Boring as the tools you have at the glance of your hand offer so many options that you don’t know which ones are necessary and with which tool you should start. Hazardous because you can spend many long hours not even being able to decide of the right version of a picture,;coming back over the same image again and again, rather than being out shooting. I just prefer the jpeg setting I choose on my camera, or, when it comes to my recent interest for film, the way my negatives are scanned by the photo lab.

But recently, as I was at a photo exhibition, I met some quite renowned Japanese photographer Takeshi Ishikawa (he works on William Eugene Smith’s prints and was an assistant to him) who kindly offered to teach me how to print my negatives. The offer was a gift to which I couldn’t say no; it was taking a new step into the film photography world, a new knowledge, something fun and exciting. Post-processing the old-school way was something that seemed less dull than the digital darkroom.

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 – 9.5x12 inches
13 final images made in 7 hours (some prints have 2 or 3 versions)

For me the answer is direct: NO. I think you need to be 2, for me that's the perfect number to go walking and go around the place.

Many famous photogrpahers have somebody with them when they go shooting: Mary Ellen Mark, Bruce Gilden, Alec Soth, Eugene Smith, the list is long and as you can see it is not the  average joe photographers; they are the real things and they do it by pair. It is not necessaraly an assistant or a photo buddy, it can be also a journalist like Alec Soth (or a "rented" girlfriend for his shooting in Hokkaido in the last years).

To have somebody first is extremely usefull for three reasons, first you are not alone while walking, driving, around, it is not boring as hell, as let's be frank you do not take so much shoots all the time even at the digital erea. Maybe if you do it so frquently then potentially you don't need a partner in crime...

Second it gives you confidence in shooting, especially when it comes to approach strangers, you have somebody on your back that you can use in different way to share and release the stress of your modus openrandi. Finally you have somebody to discuss after the session as the person was there but may have a different perspective related to your photo edition and selection.

So being two for shooting is very crucial for me. Unfortunately I don't have this chance anymore as I moved place and left alone my photo buddy, my best friend.

My Ricoh

Apart of my medium format, I own a Ricoh GR2. It is also a fantastic little machine.

First, it is very light. It has small dimensions and can fit in your pocket; I have although a neck strap and a hand strap but it is just in case I have to take a shot quickly instead of taking it out from my pocket where it fits easily...

Then, it has the special preset high contrast black and white, which I always use. I do not use much lightroom as the way the pictures come out of the camera are 99% ideal to my taste, to my state of mind as  I shoot emotional.

It is also an expert point & shoot; meaning it has most of the settings that I want, A mode, T mode but of course the manual mode, where I can set it up the way I want. This is fantastic as I can change my settings the way I want to shoot for my projects; Flashup, Mitani Monogatari, where I am using a flash.

My Black and White

Basically, I am using very high speed and an aperture of 11 so the scene looks very dark, almost all black. Then comes the flash with the ISO setting, which varies between 100 and 400 mostly (sometimes more); depending if my subject is very close, close or a bit far.

I really don't want to change or buy a regular SLR with different focals (that's also why I say I don't have the GAS); I'm not interested in taking "regular" photo with standard accesories. I love my Ricoh, it makes the job that I want nothing else.

© Aperture – Extracts from Todd Hido on Landscapes, Interiors, and Some Nudes

5 reasons to shoot digital and not analog

  1. You have a lot of choices of brand new camera from reasonably cheap to very expensive that are coming every year. You can even shoot with your smartphone.
  2. One can shoot, shoot and shoot, only your SIM card will limit you but it usually means thousands of pictures.
  3. You can instantly see the result on your camera and already decide to keep it or not.
  4. You can « easily » post process them as you have a RAW file on your computer.
  5. Shooting digital is relatively much cheaper than shoting film.

5 reasons to shoot analog and not digitial

  1. You take your time instead of shooting millions of picture, you observe and think more deeply as the amount of shot is limited.
  2. Analog results have this something more than digitally processed pictures doesn’t have. They miss this aspect of too perfect, too cold.
  3. The process itself of loading/unloading film is great, you really feel you are photographing.
  4. Vintage camera looks cool and you have also a lot of variety especially in the medium format that digital will not have (or will be too expensive).
  5. You can scan you films to put it on your computer or you can have also the possibility to process them into a darkroom, which is a fantastic and unique experience.

Pentax 67

Few months ago I bought myself a Medium format camera, a Pentax 67 with a 90mm lens (46MM for 35mm equivalent). It is a beast, a monster with more than 2kg of weight.

Medium Format camera

I used to have as medium format a Rolleiflex so 6x6, square picture format, it is beautiful, I love it but it is a bit limited with this square format. So as my best friend bought herself earlier another 6x7 beast, I also decided to do the same and I really don’t regret the investment ; yes it is an investment as analog camera tends to see their prices rising due to a kind of revival of film. So it is reassuring in term of finance.

The feeling is indeed very special with this camera. The "taste" of the pictures is very unique to the medium format, not necessarily due to the pentax 67, I might agree. But in any case the reward in term of emotions is very real and that is what count the most.

Black and White photos from Japan - Thibaut Goarant Black and White photos from Japan - Thibaut Goarant Black and White photos from Japan - Thibaut Goarant Black and White photos from Japan - Thibaut Goarant Black and White photos from Japan - Thibaut Goarant Black and White photos from Japan - Thibaut Goarant Black and White photos from Japan - Thibaut Goarant Black and White photos from Japan - Thibaut Goarant Black and White photos from Japan - Thibaut Goarant Black and White photos from Japan - Thibaut Goarant Black and White photos from Japan - Thibaut Goarant Black and White photos from Japan - Thibaut Goarant Black and White photos from Japan - Thibaut Goarant Black and White photos from Japan - Thibaut Goarant Black and White photos from Japan - Thibaut Goarant Black and White photos from Japan - Thibaut Goarant Black and White photos from Japan - Thibaut Goarant Black and White photos from Japan - Thibaut Goarant Black and White photos from Japan - Thibaut Goarant Black and White photos from Japan - Thibaut Goarant Black and White photos from Japan - Thibaut Goarant

Ten photo books that I love

Here is my list of my favorites 10 photo books. I will try to explain them but from the perspective on how they are different from each other, what make them so special compared with others. Later I will make a more detail and special review of each one of those books.

Shinya Arimoto – Tokyo circulation. This book is unique, first by it’s format, like the Todd Hido’s ones, it is a huge object. You need to sit somewhere comfortable to be able to read them carefuly. On the other hand the content is really bringing an unique feeling with is black and white, square format photographs. He’s depicting the people of Tokyo especially Shinjuku with its own wildlife; very contemporary work of this genius to come.

Todd Hido  - Excerpts From Silver Meadows & Intimate distance. The master, one of the few color books that I own, and funny enough, my favourite; even if I’m really a black and white guy. His images are like scenes, his books are like movies with nature, where human have just constructed a muddy road sometimes there are houses (thank you Robert Adams) or motel view and also of course many portraits of female. All mix into a real cinematographic mood and look and feel ; the genius of our time in photography, nobody can create such emotional pictures in my opinion; but hey, I don’t know everybody yet.

Trent Parke – Minutes to Midninight. After 2 years and 90.000km, Trente Parke is bringing us a kind of diary on the time he spent on the roads of Australia. He is also a small genius but this time, with the light into his black and white pictures. The book is quiet diverse as one can found from scenes of the city during the days to really countryside night shot with experimentation with a flash; a really true grower that I can’t stop coming back on it, one of my favorite, black and white artist (even if he made some color work e.g. The Christmas bucket). Unlike Arimoto, which photo are sharper, here, we have more grainy aspect.

Shin Yanagisawa – untitled. Also one of my favourites black and white photo book. Yanagisawa did not make many books in his life, I think three if I am not mistaken, and this one is more a kind of retrospective; but please correct me if I am wrong. It is what I say, the very classical school of Japanese photographers, picturing Japan in black and white. The distinction between them is about how much they are grainy, and what are their main telling stories. In this case, it is about a trip he made through Japan; depicting people and the area, from the North to the South of Japan, passing by, of course, the major cities but mostly villages and landscape.

Daido Moriyama – New Shinjuku. The master of grainy and dirty black and white pictures. The book is enormous, not in size but in the number of pages : 752 pages and 641 photographies ! It is really hard for me to read it in one shot despite the pictures being magnificient. Like Arimoto, he’s depicting the wildlife and flora of Shinjuku (seems a place made from gold for photographers...). It has also a very cinematic way of storytelling things.

Masahito Agake – Namekuji Soshi. A  very special photo book, one of the first book that I bought. I was attracted by first its cover with a nice purple, violet  but of course then, by the few content  I could see on the website where I bought the book. This is really a piece of art, like Yanagisawa he’s describing the places he has visited but the black and white are really deep and contrasted and he’s using a lot of dodge and burn, which create an unique flavor for his pictures that most of the case contains a human form of life, sometimes you really have to stop and look carefully to find this human presence.

Christophe Agou – Les Faits Secondaires. A very nice black and white book, always sad for me to talk as the author died recently at a relatively young  age and had a very large spectrum of work (see the color pictures, Face au Silence telling a story about real countryside daily life of people). But this time, like he said, he’s playing with the light, in some ways it is a bit like the Minutes to Midight from Parke but he’s going even further in his experimentation.

He is also playing with the shutter speed in most of the pictures of this book. The themes are very large, from a baby in a cradle, a wolf, to people having sex. My god, how all these photographers have access to this kind of pictures ? I guess they are paying them, maybe prostitutes and clients but my god you really to have some balls to shoot such things.

Seiji Kurata – Flash up. A classic Japanese book (also a huge one); this time it is not happening in Shinjuku but mostly in Ikebukuro in the 70’s, with again his nightlife wildlife, from hostess, travestis, gangster and other clients of such people. These days seems over now, either maybe there is nobody able to depict these scenes anymore (e.g. Kabukicho in Shinjuku) or the atmosphere looks much more sanitized compared to the 70’s era.

The book contain some epic shots like this yakuza almost naked, showing his tattoos on the roof top of a building, holding a katana (japanese sword). The book contains some scenes with the police and some bosozoku (almost gangster but not yet…). Really, it seems these days are over in current modern Japan.

Ryuichi Ishikawa – Adrenamix. A really special book, where Ishikawa is bringing us back to his twentie’s; where he had nothing to loose but everything to show. Not sure as he’s forty now , he could make such book. It contains some, yes, pornographic scenes; involving himself I guess, which are the climax of the books (thank you, V.,  you will recognize yourself, to open my eyes on those scenes) among other scenes of youngsters of Okinawa. Where you can find what I beleive are his friends but also and mostly, bosozoku. A small book by its size but a huge impact on my mind. Like it is said in english, a mind blowing masterpiece.

Shinya Arimoto

One of my favorite book. The book is huge and it is protected with a cover that make it even more impressive. But the good thing, apart being a beautiful object, is that the photos are huge also; so it deserves the medium format of the cameras that Arimoto have used (Rolleiflex 2.8F but mostly with an Hasselblad 903SWC) that are square 6x6 cameras.

Tokyo Circulation

Shinya Arimoto is bringing us into the wildlife of Shinjuku in Tokyo, most of the shots are day time; sometimes used with a flash. We can observe different type of people; but totally not the usual salaryman… One of my favorite is the one done in a back alley; the guy is covered with tattoos all over his body and he’s smoking a cigarette.

Of course, in this area, there are a lot of beggars; seems one got his attention, as we can see him in several shots through the book; by the way it took him 10 years to gather the images he wanted to make it; so it is interesting and scary to see that this man is still in a terrible situation year after year; maybe it is a choice, yes a choice.

Through another exhibition in the Totem Pole Gallery (owned by Shynia Arimoto) in Tokyo, I met another photographer, that was telling me that the beggars that he was tooking in pictures, were in this situation as they wanted to be… so maybe in the case of Arimoto it is the same…

The book seems to be splitted into 2 section; not sure what is the difference among the two (that may be a question I should address to Arimoto together with the one on the beggars) and I prefer the first part; as I found the portraits more interesting while the second part is also good but not as equal with the first one in my humble opinion.

The photo all put together make a great atmosphere. You can feel the wildlife of Shinjuku with his powerful portraits with some interesting b-cut that make the reader breathing a bit; through looking at all the book's pictures. The title comes from his statement that Tokyo has a kind of circulation of air, mood, but mostly people; in what he call interact in an ecosystem « with a magnificent circulation ».

I am looking forward for his new work. From the few pictures I could find here and there, seems that we are going to have a promising second book; hope we will not have to wait 10 years to see the 2nd volume of his work in Shinjuku.

Todd Hido

My favorite book from my favorite photographer. Everything in there is very cinematic. I just don't know how to describe his work apart from this word, cinematic, the images are so much talking to me, from an emotional perspective, not a specific one, but just the one that moves your guts, blow your mind, everytime you look at it.

Excerpts from Silver Meadows

He usually shoots mostly three things. First, landscapes, from his car, so you always have some rain/fog appearing on the photo from the windows he's shooting through.  That's one of his main activity through several books as well. One can see muddy roads, dead trees, leading line from all these things you can find on these really countryside roads. Then they are the colors, which are magnificient, again very cinematic, dramatic. He's like a painter. By the way he makes his own prints, from which his books are made from.

After they are "urban landscapes" where he shoots houses (we can feel the Robert Adams' influence); where there is inside one or two rooms illuminated; so you are wandering yourself what are they looking at. It gives also the impression on intimacy; same as for the one when you look at TV, when your broadcaster is inviting himself at your place or more precisely, you are inviting him as you choose to watch him. With the light coming out of the windows at night, it gives this very cinematic feeling again.

Then they are portrait; sometimes they are introduced by outside motels pictures, with neon lights sometimes alley with cars. Yes, he's taking his photos of women inside motel rooms; where he will put away the cover sheet to give a flavor of not everything being perfect, a bit of messy, like the person really slept there, the curtain also will be half closed.

The pictures are mostly nude, erotic but never pornographic, I found them very explicit; I am just a basic guy you know, but never dirty , crude or unrespectful for the woman he is shooting at; he has one main model Kristina but not only, you can find several other models (especially in one of his other  books, Between The Two).

The book is like a road movie.  I am really in love with his work and especially this one. And by the way, the book is huge also, so it is like looking at a series of prints; no pictures are coming across two pages. They all fit into one page, which is also very immersive for the reader.

Really, I love Todd Hido, he is the best one to me; nobody can move my heart and soul like he does.

Trent Parke

One of my first book I bought. Hence maybe one of the influence on my work, specially nowadays.

Minutes to Midnight

His book is made after a road trip of about 90.000 km in two years. So in a way it has a bit a road trip atmosphere and pictures related. The photos are quiet diverse, from some kind of street photography to more abstract or fine art photography. But most of the time he's playing with light especially for the ones made at night (obviously).

Yes he's playing with light either natural light, or with the flash where is using it in a very innovative way. At least, I have not seen any other works like his. Maybe I am wrong so please tell me, I would really like to discover some people like him playing with light!

Road trip, yes; this comes from few pictures coming here and there ; where you can feel the spirit, like this picture of a man hanging over the top of a moving car, or, the other one shot is in the city center of a small town it seems;  very street photography much feeling, where various people are looking in different directions and moving in various directions.

I think that's the essence of  Trent Parke's Minutes to Midnight is a simple question of freedom, no restriction in term of style or technique. You can feel he really has a passion for innovative photography and at the same time he is very emotional as an approach. As one is really moved by these black and white masterpiece shots.

Maybe he's trying to bring the reader to a kind of magic place, where normal things do not have their right to be normal. There is always a detail or even the full picture itself, which is there to bring you out of the reality. Again with very diverse genre and style of photography (e:g: there are also sub-water shots...)

His way of capturing things with a flash is a great inspirations of mine, sometimes I like to experiment like him. I am trying step by step, trial by trial to further fine tune my technique. By especially knowing the extreme to better understand the "normal" way of flash shooting; or at least my own way of shooting.

I looking at this book regularly, especially when I am down, with no inspiration or fed up with photography. It will cheer me up. That's the great power from this fantastic photo book that I really recommend to everyone (and it is affordable too...). If there was only to take with you that could be the ideal one.

Autumn leafs. Today I just went outside, with no real intention to shoot but I took my camera, again I shooted a part of the session in colors. Yes I said the last time that I will not be for a while but colors you can find in Japan during Autumn are just extraordinary, you cannot avoid to shoot in color for some of them. I will add in Mitani Monogatari section of this website or here but they will be in Black and white not into colors.

Autumn leafs

Autumn leafs Autumn leafs Autumn leafs Autumn leafs

Last week, a band called HIELO, a rock band from Osaka, invited me to photoshoot them. We spend most of the day together, trying to get the best pictures for them to promote themselves, as they don't have yet a website, nor any materials for flyers etc... This was a very new experience for me. As I usually shoot portrait or street photography only.

But they seemed convinced by the result so I am really happy for this. We started in their rehearsal studio for 2h, that's where I think I got the best material. I mean as a photographer, while they might be more happy with the band photo we took afterwards. We tried to went first to a church but it was forbidden to take pictures.

We were a bit disapointed but it did not stopped us taking pictures after wards in the street of Osaka, trying to find the right place and background. So we could do also nice all band together photos type of things. We finished the day in a yakitori ya san (grilled chicken sticks restaurant). And I went back home. I could not sleep so I did the editing right away so I was able to give them the pictures the day after in the early morning.

BRUCE GILDEN:

ANOTHER JAPAN, UNTOLD & AGITATED

Bruce Gilden went to Japan at the end of the nineties bringing with him his recognizable style: black and white (at that time), sometimes really up close, and flash; as well as his interest for the alternative, the different. Gilden is a close-up artist. He is in the action, with his subjects. The portrait he makes of them is not always flattering but always depicting a certain truth, the hidden side of things.

At that time Japan is still recovering from his Asset Price Bubble Collapse (1991-1992). We’re still in the Lost Decade. The stigma from the economy collapse is still tangible. Gilden by putting his eyes on the underground and the uncovered – the Japanese mafia, the homeless, the sex (photographing a porn actress), the Right-wing nationalists, the drunks – tries to convey a sense of uneasiness, discomfort.

His choice of black and white, for a form of documentary photography, puts a certain weight on things and creates an awkward atmosphere on this post bubble Japan, echoing to the so-called grey economy. He brings the attention on things Japan wants to keep for itself, and not to be broadcasted to the outside.

This photo of a yakuza taking a break, during the Sanja Matsuri, in the streets of Asakusa, for example: the man is caught unguarded, on the phone, jewelry of a bad taste brightened by the flash, beer cans visible in the frame. The picture emphasis the context: this festival is like a big party from the eighty’s, at the time of the Japanese Economic Miracle.

He photographs an ex-member of the Japanese mafia his cigarette being lit up by another man, both in American gangster fashion from the 1950’s. He doesn’t want to make things look lovely or attractive, but he puts an amused eye on them, making them look like caricatures; while the smoke of the cigarette flies over his face and probably burns his eyes, the man offers a constricted grin, almost suffering, like the economy.

Japanese gangsters, Yakuza, are for him the absolute dark side of Japan, and photographing them helps him to depict the crash of the Bubble, showing them drunk, or in ridiculous situations – ​a Japanese mafia member, head in a butterfly net, held by a little girl.

Another time, he’s taking a picture of a man lying on the road, a large recent scar with heavy stitches, disfiguring the face, from the top of his head to the bottom of his eyes, even on his nose. It is like a metaphor of Japan, hurt in its economy, and trying to recover. He depicts the untold culture like the sex industry, with his series « double life », where a former prostitute became a novelist; after spending years selling her body to strangers, now she’s selling her story to strangers.

The black and white Gilden is anchored in a timeless manner of showing things, to highlight the monotone and repetitive circles of life, bringing some more drama to the scenes, like in an Orson Wells' movie. His black and white work is much more universal compared to his recent frontal color portraits.

From his trip to Japan, Gilden brought back images that show a country still struggling to wake up after the crash of its economy, with all of its contradictions, and from the angle of the alternative worlds or industries.

Book
Bruce Gilden: Go

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New pictures in Mitani Monogatari. I decided to make evolve the Mitani Monogatari project to a new stage. I will include chapters represented by the seasons that makes Mitani leaving at the pace of the countryside. Obviously at the moment there is winter and now I have just added spring.
Hopefully I will be able to make summer anf fall from now on.

Yes, I changed my life. I was a salaryman, freshly arrived in Japan in 2014, I work in the Automotive industry in Marketing. And frankly this is not what I can do, at least, at this stage. What I mean by stage, is depression. I always suffered from depression but this time it is really hard, it is the second time I’ve been put in sick leave ; and this sick leave can last for 2 years. Many reason for depression, difficult relationship with parents, my best friend died (Hopefully I succeed to made another one, which was unbelievable) and the work I was doing , well, let’s say I was not able to do it because of sickness. The state of depression is awful even if you take medecine and talk to a shrink these containit but doesn’t really cure it, this will take time.

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 hate post-processing. Frankly, I find it boring and hazardous. Boring as the tools you have at the glance of your hand offer so many options that you don’t know which ones are necessary and with which tool you should start. Hazardous because you can spend many long hours not even being able to decide of the right version of a picture, coming back over the same image again and again, rather than being out shooting. I just prefer the jpeg setting I choose on my camera, or, when it comes to my recent interest for film, the way my negatives are scanned by the photo lab.

But recently, as I was at a photo exhibition, I met some quite renowned Japanese photographer Takeshi Ishikawa (he works on William Eugene Smith’s prints and was an assistant to him) who kindly offered to teach me how to print my negatives. The offer was a gift to which I couldn’t say no; it was taking a new step into the film photography world, a new knowledge, something fun and exciting. Post-processing the old-school way was something that seemed less dull than the digital darkroom.

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 – 9.5x12 inches
13 final images made in 7 hours (some prints have 2 or 3 versions)

Picture

...I shoot people closely, I mean real close, only few centimeters from their face to my camera. But why I want to do it ? Why I shoot people so close ?

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.

I am not a guy that talk so much, I am kind of misanthrope usually, I don’t like very much the human kind. But when I shoot with my little Ricoh, I tend to forget everything, I am not me anymore, I start to be somebody else. And this new person is anger of interaction with people, although it is very difficult as still, a part of myself is so angry at mankind. And somehow I believe this belief takes form and I imagine that people can see or feel it. It may sounds strange but that’s the case. I have the feeling that people can see the truth inside of me.

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.

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.

Indeed it is all about Skies and Lines.

So it is all about, geometrical figures of lines between the skies and some lines you can find around.

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