June 2009
2009, Jun 28
Run Into Flowers

somewhere in Tokyo, i forget

Lately I have been wanting to take pictures of the plant life in Tokyo. Foliage has never interested me before as a subject, but I’m seeing how people here jam plants everywhere, like in windowsills, behind fences and especially in pots on the sidewalk. They are always hanging out with so much concrete though.

I shot a whole roll of black and white plant stuff out by where I work, it came out well and I’m hoping to print it soon.

Next up: macro and HDR – Flickr explore here I come!

(CLAM$ CA$INO digs plants too)


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2009, Jun 26
Mika Kitamura and empty space

My friend John sent me a link to Mika Kitamura’s site a few weeks ago. There’s a lot of work up there, but I liked her series “?????????” or “From one roll of film” the best. Looking at the work by Fukuyama Emi and Yamashita Tsuneo has been pushing me towards more empty compositions, and these photos make me think along the same lines.

As it happens, the first five photos on 415Kurt’s photostream strike me in the same way as this other work. They are night shots of San Francisco houses with a strong feeling for the city.


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Mika Kitamura

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2009, Jun 17
Last week of “Japan: Self Portrait” exhibition

This post comes late, but there are still a few more days left to check out the “Japan: Self Portait” exhibit at the Setagaya Art Museum. The exhibit is a survey of postwar Japanese photography. Here’s the link to the Tokyo Art Beat entry, which includes all the information you’d need to make it out. (I suggest a bike ride to the park, if possible.)

Tadahiko Hayashi, “Return of Ginza-bura,” 1950. This looks about 500 times better in real life

Apart from the pleasure of walking through many comfortably large rooms of black and white photographs, I enjoyed thinking about different contexts for viewing a photograph. Some of these pictures could have been tossed off by the photographer, without much thought towards history, but now we might read something much different in them.

Whether you can make it to the show or not, the interview with curator and blogger Marc Feustel at Japan Exposures about this exhibit is worth reading, for an inside perspective on Japanese photography.


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2009, Jun 14
Emi Fukuyama and awkward photography

The current show at Totem Pole Photo Gallery, Emi Fukuyama’s “Followed By the Moon 4,” is really worth seeing if you’re in Tokyo during the next week. (It closes Sunday June 21.) Totem Pole is one of the strongest galleries in Tokyo, but this exhibition might be the best I’ve seen there.

a photo by Emi Fukuyama, from a previous show

The photographs in this show are all taken from positions that my friend called “awkward”—he pointed out that in almost each image, there’s something blurred in the foreground. This could be distracting, but the resistance draws your eye in to the rest of the frame, where something’s waiting for you, like umbrellas hanging outside an apartment, or chairs by a pool. The consistently expressive composition and lush black-and-white printing makes for a strong mood from start to finish. My friend and I walked out wanting to shoot a lot, which is a sign of a winning show.

Please enjoy, and let me know if you make it out, I’m curious to hear other responses.

[map to Totem Pole Photo Gallery]


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Emi Fukuyama, Totem Pole Photo Gallery

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2009, Jun 12
Support Hamburger Eyes Issue 13

There’s an interesting experiment online right now. Actually, it’s not really “interesting” so much as “vital,” as in, “it is vital that this experiment goes well.”

Hamburger Eyes needs $3000 to put out their next issue—who can blame them—so they’ve set up a page where you can donate, and track their progress. If you donate $15, you get a copy of Issue 13… which you were going to buy anyway, right? This is a chance for people on the internet to stand up and be counted. I’ve been passing up on a lot of books lately but I had to put some Yen behind this one.


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2009, Jun 09
Bloggers, the darkroom, Araki

the blog world is still so new! the current stars are skilled at putting on a grand show, like chaplin. who knows, maybe even the more thoughtful ones (keaton, in my image) won’t survive the next wave…

i used a darkroom today. i like black and white film because i think it’s EASY. today i made four contact sheets and four prints. none of the prints are ready to be exhibited, 3 are not centered properly on the paper, but in all of last YEAR, even with my scanner, i made probably no more than 15 prints, which was the whole idea of getting it in the first place. scanning is such pain, everything is guesswork! “how’s the calibration of my monitor, how’s the calibration of the lab’s printer, if i move this curve 5 pixels down does the photo actually look better, and WHY IS IT THAT walgreens almost makes my color film look better anyway…” not to mention the soul-crushing tedium of scanning. the darkroom is simple and rewarding.


i also saw araki’s latest show today. it’s called Araki 69, he’s turning 69 years old and he shot it with a 6×9 camera. i would say the photos are like “Araki photos made with a 6×9 camera,” in other words he translated his style accurately to the format. here’s an interesting interview with Araki, it makes me feel a bit ashamed for having so little to say about him WHEN HE’S PUBLISHED 450 BOOKS, if that’s even true. “Kofuku Shashin” sounds interesting, though.


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Nobuyoshi Araki

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2009, Jun 08
A trip to Sokyu-sha’s bookstore

Sokyu-sha is one of the many galleries which are around Shinjuku Gyoen, a nicely manicured park in the middle of Shinjuku. To the side of the gallery space is one of the most interesting photography bookstores in Tokyo. It’s not the biggest, but it has a really strong selection of black and white books, including many publications which I haven’t seen anywhere else. Let’s take a look.

I have updated all of these “trip” posts with a link to a map of the place. Here’s the map of Sokyu-sha.

The main shelves. The book on display here is Asako Narahashi’s “Half Awake and Half Asleep in the Water,” which I would really like

In the middle is a long table, which is mostly full of high-level, more recent books. Older stuff is on the shelves

Requisite issues of Moriyama’s “Record” series. Still managed to pass up the Osaka one, which is on the right here

A bookcase full of what I assume is photography history and criticism. I can speak a reasonable amount of Japanese but kanji is still beyond me

Here’s where Sokyu-sha really shines. These are issues of a small photography publication which I’ve never seen before

I bought the issues of “LP” for 500yen each, and the white book on the left. This book is amazing and only cost 1000yen, I will write about it later

Not exactly zines, but tiny publications printed on cheap paper which are mostly text. Still interesting, and again, I don’t know yet where else to find this kind of thing


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2009, Jun 06
RJ Shaughnessy and !!!!!

I just saw this series by RJ Shaughnessy called “Your Golden Opportunity Is Comeing Very Soon.” I’m digging it a lot, lately I’ve been taking pictures of the textures in Tokyo and this really resonates. Simple and effective, shoot on!

Via We can shoot too


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2009, Jun 04
Yamashita Tsuneo’s “Another time on the Ryuku Islands” at Tosei-sha

There is a talk by Kenya Hara, art director of MUJI, in which he explains why he thinks that Japanese culture (!) should be thought of as valuing “emptiness,” rather than “simplicity.” This distinction can be traced all the way back to the construction of a Shinto shrine, which at its center is always an empty space enclosed by four pillars, bound at the top with straw. The building around this space is not all that important. The empty space is more valuable, because it offers the possibility of being filled.

To cite Hara’s more modern example, we can look at the design of knives from America and Japan. The handle of an American knife might have a molded grip, which means it can be held in only one way. That’s simple. A Japanese knife, though, will have a cylindrical handle, which can accommodate whatever style the cook may wish to use. Hara calls this knife empty.

The photographs in Yamashita Tsuneo’s “Another time on the Ryuku Islands” made me think of that talk. I wanted to call his photographs “simple,” but maybe I should say that they’re empty. What does this mean? The photos are a vehicle for transmitting the experience of being on the islands. Like the building around a shrine, they’re not actually that important. You might forget that you are looking at photographs.

Walking around the exhibit, I felt connected to this place in Okinawa. It’s strange to say, but a close up photograph of a large, still-wet squid lying on a wooden table gave me the impression of what the air on the Ryuku islands would feel like.

I can’t guarantee that you will have a similar experience, but perhaps if you go to the gallery without thinking very much, you’ll feel the same way.

All of these photos are from a different series, “Daily.” They are also all © Yamashita Tsuneo

The exhibit is at the Tosei-sha gallery in Nakano-ku, and will be up until the end of June. Here’s a map to the gallery. The staff at Tosei-sha is by far the friendliest I have met in Tokyo, and there are a number of good books out front, some of which they have also published.


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Tosei-sha, Tsuneo Yamashita

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2009, Jun 01
Ume Kayo and vernacular photography

There has been interesting discussion lately about the place of “vernacular” photography, and its position (or lack of it) in the “fine art” world.

Ume Kayo fits in here, as a young photographer with a style that I think would be at home on Flickr. She’s had real success in Japan, though: in 2006, she won the Ihei Kimura Award, which recognizes a young photographer and effectively launches their career. Her first book, “Ume-me,” has since gone on to sell over 110,000 copies, and as of today is still given pride of place on publisher Little More’s site.

Here are some samples from “Ume-me.” This kind of work is what’s at stake, no?

all © Ume Kayo

Is Ume Kayo already known in the US? I have no idea.


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Kayo Ume

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