I’ve found myself praising Araki for bringing his own life as close to photography as possible. I don’t think Araki’s photos break too much ground aesthetically, but there’s so much of his life in his photos—maybe even his entire life! Photography is like breathing for him. Just look at how much he’s enjoying himself here:
Araki’s musical equivalent might be Jonathan Richman, who’s not trying to reinvent the wheel, but who expresses himself clearly and naturally when he’s performing. He and Araki both got started around the same time, and are still going strong today.
You may have seen the trailer for the film “How to Make a Book With Steidl,” which looks like essential viewing for people interested in photobooks. (Despite being posted on some “major” blogs, the trailer only has 10,000 views, which I guess says something about the overall popularity of the field.) I haven’t seen the movie yet, but last week I went with Tosei-sha’s Takahashi Kunihiro to watch him make Deguchi Kozue’s book “緑絽” (Ryokuro), or loosely translated, “Green Gauze.” Takahashi-san uses a couple of different printing companies, but this time a small group of us piled into his van and drove to Tokyo’s Toppan Insatsu (凸版印刷), one of the largest printing presses in Japan.
Takahashi-san has made a name for himself as a master black and white printer: he’s been doing it for 20 years, and his trademark move is blending the black and gray inks himself. For this book, he used a black ink containing 60% red and 40% blue, and a gray ink with 5 different colors that I’ve completely forgotten. I say “the black had 60% red and 40% blue,” but I’m not really sure what that means technically. Obviously the ink looks black, but I don’t know if we’re talking about blue “hues” or “pigments” here.
Deguchi’s book has 50 images on 100 pages, so the goal for this day was for her to sign off on 7 sheets, each containing 4 images. Deguchi and Takahashi would then go back the next day to finish up the rest. In the photo above, Deguchi and Takahashi are reviewing a test sheet, literally hot off the press, with the print operators. If there are any adjustments to be made, the operators will come back about 15 minutes later with the next version.
The pensive-looking Italian gentleman in the right of this photo is Pierfrancesco Celada, who was here working on a long-term project on Japanese cities. His site is worth visiting, he has a very good eye.
I didn’t realize this, but to make something appear brighter on the page, you actually add black to it. Say that you have something that’s 10% white and 90% black. The difference between the two is 80%. If you double the black, then you have 20% and 180%, which makes for a much bigger difference. There’s actually more black there, but the eye perceives it as being more white. This is all according to Takahashi-san at least, the numbers sound a bit sketchy but I think that perhaps the percentage shouldn’t be taken too literally.
The workstation on the factory floor. Here’s a video showing the printing machine whirring up and sending the sheets through. As it got going, the head of the department said to me, “man, I never get tired of watching this…”
With this machine, you can bump up the ink levels, limiting the affected area to only a certain part of the sheet. The control isn’t pixel-level, of course.
The black knobs here correspond to the levels that were set on the machine above.
These are the plates for the black and gray ink. They’re flexible, so that they can grab the ink, then roll it on to a rubber roller, which in turn rolls it on to the paper.
That’s Deguchi-san on the left, and Tomomi Matsutani on the right. Matsutani-san is a young photographer who has published a couple of interesting zines, and helped run Onaka Koji’s Gallery Kaido during 2010.
Takahashi-san looks like he’s having a miserable time here, but that’s not the case at all. The whole day was stress-free, and even though there’s a lot of downtime waiting for the revisions to come back, there was good banter back and forth between everyone to keep things interesting.
The area around Tokyo’s Shinjuku station might have the highest concentration of photography galleries in the city. Still, Third District Gallery might be in the most interesting spot of all, located as it is on the fourth floor of a narrow building, directly above this shop:
Haruto Hoshi (星玄人) has been holding a series of exhibitions at this gallery for a while, each titled “Street photo exhibition” #1, 2, 3 and so on. I’ve always picked up his flyers while visiting other shows, but this is the first one that I’ve seen.
As in other countries, there’s a tradition in Japan of taking a camera into the “underbelly” (or whatever) of a big city, and flashing away. Just because someone’s done it before doesn’t mean it can’t be done again, though, and there are a few reasons why I think Hoshi’s work isn’t just imitation.
In the first place, he’s not only wandering around looking for interesting people to flash. It seems clear that in some of the pictures, like the one below, he has a connection to the people he’s shooting. This makes everything more interesting; aside from drawing out a different character of the subjects, it makes me more curious about Hoshi as a person, and why he’s taking these pictures.
Aside from this, I think he’s edited his pictures well to bring out more of the scenery. It’s a simple comment but I like the aesthetic of shooting things a little bit wide; it’s nice to see more of what’s happening. The flash often picks up interesting textures, and I have the feeling that Hoshi is looking for that just as much as for interesting people.
The light intersecting with this man’s eye is from Hoshi’s camera—it’s not glare from a light in the gallery.
She’s posing with a cardboard cutout, possibly of herself.
To make things fair, this is the Google Translate version of this post. I think it should more or less approximate how a Japanese speaker will interpret the text I just wrote.
The challenge now is to use Japanese.
I did not introduce myself in Japanese yet. “Why I came to Japan, “ frequently asked questions. Recently, more Japanese people who read this blog, so, thought I’d introduce myself a little.
I came to Japan in January 2009. The reason is that there are two.
Before that, I lived in San Francisco, California. It is the home town Ito Kon. I’d worked at the company a little popular, daily work was very interesting. So I wanted to try a new life.
Why choose Japan? It will not photograph. I was interested about photography before. I have a family of many photographers. Camera was a kid around me. Proper use of the darkroom also studied in high school. Photos from that era was really like. University College of photos with Spanish literature is thought less. One more picture of a photographer friend in San Francisco made it thought. American friends went to see the work in Japan. At that time, I was surprised to see pictures of Japanese culture. Galleries, magazines and cameras, because I have never seen. Living in Japan has been imagined back in the United States.
It is a long explanation, that is why I came to Japan. To tell you the truth, the picture in San Francisco did not talk at all. I will study in Tokyo and photos. Once, I would like living in Japan for many years from now.
So, I conclude that. (Laughs) now want to introduce a foreign photographer. Do you Twitter here, Which is better?.