Patrick Tsai
2012, Apr 03
Patrick Tsai Exhibit and Book

Last week marked the end of an era, as Patrick Tsai’s project Talking Barnacles finished up after a year. It’s currently living on in its online state, though I am sure that it will take on some other form in the future. Patrick is about to launch a new phase in his career, though, as this week he’ll hold a major solo show in Shibuya’s LOGOS Gallery, in the PARCO building. (There’s an opening this Friday from 7pm.) Midway through the show’s run, his first book, Modern Times, will be released by Nanaroku-sha, of Mirai-chan fame.

The SLJ team is wishing Pat well.


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Nanaroku-sha, Patrick Tsai

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2011, Nov 17
Some notes on the 2011 Canon New Cosmos of Photography Judging Ceremony Thing

I mean this title pretty literally, I just want to type up some notes. I attended the awards ceremony of the Canon New Cosmos of Photography because my friend Pat Tsai was one of the finalists. The experience was strange, not very enjoyable, and I don’t have very much meaningful to say about it. I don’t really understand what happened, but it may be a useful thing to refer back to later if I ever decide to think about the rat races that young photographers in Japan run. Pat didn’t win, so there’s no way I could pretend to write about this objectively.

The format of the event:

  1. Boring introduction from Canon employee
  2. One finalist goes up to the podium and gives a short talk about their work
  3. Judges ask (or do not ask) questions to the finalist
  4. Finalist struggles to answer the questions, sits back down
  5. Repeat until all 5 finalists have presented. This takes about 1.5 hours
  6. Nerve wracking 40 minute break
  7. Boring introduction from Canon employee
  8. Presentation of awards to five finalists
  9. Announcement of winner
  10. Winner gives a speech
  11. Last year’s winner gives a short speech

Profiles of the judges and some description:

  • Katsumi Oomori (photographer): Cool guy who spent large parts of the event burying his face in his hands, appearing completely uninterested in anything. A sign of honesty, given the surroundings
  • Masafumi Sanai (photographer): Didn’t say very much, but when he spoke, rambled in an esoteric way. His long hair and all-denim bathrobe (!!) gave him the appearance of a dude who just rushed over to the event after missing his alarm. I think I mean this in a good way. I should have taken a picture of the robe, but maybe it will appear on the Canon site later.
  • Noi Sawaragi (critic): Embodiment of the “scowling art critic,” asked the harshest questions and spent most of the time with his arms folded. Gave Pat the stinkeye.
  • Minoru Shimizu (critic): I think I’ve seen some of his writings in English before, and thought they were impossible to understand, but he was actually very cool. Spoke with lots of energy, and was always pushing towards something positive. Symbolically, wore a white shirt to Sawaragi’s black leather jacket.
  • HIROMIX (photographer): Oh, HIROMIX. You can hear the parties in her voice.

Best quotes from judges:
“What can photography do?”
“How will you continue what you’re doing for the next 30, 40, 50 years?”
“What’s something bad? It doesn’t have to be anything related to photography, just, tell me something you think is bad!”
“I’m guessing you don’t have a girlfriend, do you?” (Answer: no, I don’t.) “Yeah, I thought so.” (this was Sanai, bless him)

I don’t really want to get in to this right now, but… Pat was the only one who did not get tripped up by the judges. Hiromix asked him about a dead dog photo he took years ago, and did not include in the work he submitted to the thing.


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Canon New Cosmos of Photography, HIROMIX, Masafumi Sanai, Patrick Tsai

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2011, Aug 06
Patrick Tsai is a Canon New Cosmos of Photography Finalist

© Patrick Tsai

Some very sweet news came through the other day: Patrick Tsai is a finalist for the 2011 Canon New Cosmos of Photography award! This is one of the top photography awards given out in Japan, and all five finalists will have a group show at Tokyo’s Metropolitan Museum of Photography in October. (The Grand Prize winner will be announced around that time, I guess.)

The work he submitted is not Talking Barnacles, his ongoing blog project, but “God Only Knows,” a project about a farm in Gunma which you can see a bit of here.

Congrats Pat!


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Canon New Cosmos of Photography, Patrick Tsai

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2011, Apr 03
Patrick Tsai, Talking Barnacles

© Patrick Tsai

I’ve featured Patrick Tsai a couple of times on this blog before. He got quite a lot of attention a few years ago with his My Little Dead Dick project, which he describes on his website as a “photo diary.” When that project ended, he moved to Tokyo, and I met him shortly after I arrived here a couple of years ago. Since coming to Japan, he’s published a very good zine, “Hot Water,” but it seems like it’s been hard to follow up the success of My Little Dead Dick.

His newest project, though, seems like it will stand up well to his earlier work. What made MLDD so compelling was looking at someone else’s life put on display, and Pat’s new blog, Talking Barnacles, operates in a similar way. What started out as an interview blog has now become a post-earthquake blog, and I’m sure it will turn into other things as well. There’s more writing here, but it’s still a “photo diary.” I try to err on the side of undersharing myself on the internet, but the opposite approach definitely works. I like that he’s turning around his film quickly, and introducing the people in his life. It’s still only a couple of weeks old but it looks promising. Pat said it himself: “after being lost for four years, I finally found my voice again.”

Tokyo is darker than usual, which contrasts with the excitement I feel about being here. I will continue to write about photography here and other places – I’ve got a nice post lined up for La Pura Vida. About an hour before the earthquake hit I became a full time freelancer, so if you have any writing or web design gigs, please get in touch. Contact info to the left.


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Patrick Tsai

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2010, Aug 31
New exhibit from Patick Tsai, “Hot Water”

About three years ago it was very hard to look at Flickr without coming across My Little Dead Dick, a photo project between Patrick Tsai and Madi Ju documenting their life together. So many things about that project seemed so right for the time: here were young people shooting film through compact cameras with abandon, taking the material of their own lives and turning it into art, all seemingly without very much effort at all. If they worked “jobs” at all, that didn’t come through in their photos—which seemed born of a will to live and breathe photography at each waking moment. Apart from the obvious/voyeuristic interest people have in observing other people’s lives, I think this seriously unrestrained drive to shoot made the project a breath of fresh air in the internet photo world. It’s hard to speak about “generations” online, because everything moves quickly, but I’m sure My Little Dead Dick will come to be cited as an important reference point for some crop of hotshot photographers coming to your monitor in a few years. Pat and Madi were, for me at least, the first and last real Flickr stars.

from “Hot Water” by Patrick Tsai

I’d read an interview with Pat where he said he was moving to Tokyo, so once I got here I sent him an email to see if he wanted to hang out. I didn’t actually expect to hear from him, but he got right back to me and we met up a couple of days later. We’ve been really good friends since then – Pat is one of the most generous dudes I know, and I’m forever indebted to him for hooking me up with my job here.

Pat has a new exhibit which is opening this coming Saturday, September 4, at Cultivate Gallery in Tokyo. It’s called “Hot Water,” and I don’t want to give away too much but it is definitely worth checking out. There’s an opening party on Saturday from 5-8, I’ll be there and if you mention Street Level Japan (just yell it out if you dont recognize me ok, i prob wont be the only paleface) I’ll get you a beer.

The exhibit is up from September 4 – September 26, only open on Saturdays and Sundays from 2-7pm. GOOG MAP


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Patrick Tsai

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