Recollections vol.2;Tokyo, June 2011  2011 - 2012

For this project, I shot around Shinjuku Station--the busiest business and shopping area in Tokyo. However in my images, the pedestrians on the sidewalks and crosswalks appear strangely frozen in the middle of their action while they are moving their feet one step forward toward their destinations.
Some are captured while holding umbrellas, some are frozen while conversing with others or talking on cell phones, and some are caught while running hurriedly with long strides - all of these actions are momentary paused. Along with beaming sunlight and dark shadows cast on the ground, the scenes look surreal, fictitious and curiously soundless, even though the actual location is filled with traffic sounds and crowd noise.

In my sequential series of “Scramble Crossing”, I experiment with the consecutive shooting of people on a scramble crossing. During the brief period of time when the traffic signal changes from green to red, I capture various types of pedestrians as well as vehicles crossing in opposite directions. These paused frames and sequential images reveal interesting “raw” expressions of people in their facial and body language in which they are not normally conscious of. On the scramble, each person seems to tell his or her own personal story even though they appear frozen in time.

By using a wide-angle lens with fixed aperture and a relatively high shutter speed with no flash or tripod or close up shot, I was able to capture all of the images casually and spontaneously as a distant observer without interacting with my subjects. My approach becomes a sampling of everyday life out on the streets. An added bonus is that these everyday scenes often transform themselves into a unique expression and unexpectedly tell stories by themselves, as also exemplified by my previous NYC subway photographs.


Scenes from osaka 2011

During my stay in Japan, I also did some shooting in osaka - my hometown. The images shown here are some of the photos Itook at Senri Sercy - a suburban shopping mall located in Senri New Town (a suburban city in osaka prefecture) as well as at Umeda station (Midosuji Subway Line) - one of the busiest stations in osaka.

When I took those photos at Senri Sercy shopping mall on a bright Sunday afternoon, there were huge crowds of women gathered around the plaza, for an event featuring an all male K-Pop (Korean pop music) group. Although I took all those pictures quite spontaneously, they came out as rather interesting consecutive "frozen" moments of time showing lively crowds along with high-tech architecture.

On the contrary, in my photos of Umeda station, urban commuters appear in moody sepia tones and the classic interior of the building (originally built in 1933) illuminated with dim fluorescent chandeliers creates a retrospective atmosphere.



1) After the crisis – note about Japan 2011

In March 11th 2011, a cataclysmic earthquake and tsunami occurred on the northern coast of Japan killing about 20,000 people, and wrecking Fukushima nuclear power plants causing serious radioactive leaks throughout northeastern Japan and also Tokyo.

Around that time, I happened to be visiting my mother in Osaka, Japan - which was unaffected since it is located some 600 km west of the disaster area. There I witnessed the disaster on TV that same day. Two weeks later I got an opportunity to travel east to Tokyo for a few days where I felt that the capital city looked somewhat dark and people seemed under great stress as they moved about in train stations and streets beneath traffic lights and advertising boards that had been switched off due to the power shortage. Small tremors still shock the city almost daily.

However, three months later when I revisited Tokyo, the city seemed very much back to normal. Of course in northern Japan, thousands of evacuees were still living in temporary houses while the area that had been directly struck will take years to redevelop. Even in Tokyo, some signs of abnormality were still obvious such as extinguished lighting of station names or the lack of air conditioning in train stations that had been turned off for scheduled power savings. On TV many programs were focusing on how to avoid immediate danger from radiation poisoning and Geiger counters were becoming popular household items for detecting radioactivity in local neighborhoods. In stores consumers carefully avoided purchasing vegetables or dairy products produced in hard hit prefectures..

But still, under the bright sunshine of June, I found that people in Tokyo were genuinely enjoying shopping and roaming happily about just like any other time. I believes in the strength of the Japanese people who remain undaunted by the havoc nature has wrecked on their homeland as they rebuild their nation step by step.

2) About photography paper used for this exhibition

I have been using only a film camera and do all the printing from negatives by myself in a color darkroom. “Kodak Ektacolor Supra Endura Color Negative RC Glossy Paper, 16 x 20” - a photographic enlarging paper for manual printing made by Kodak - has been used for all of my works since beginning of my career. However, since Kodak announced it would stop manufacturing this paper at the end of 2009, the product became extremely hard to get since it disappeared from the stores very quickly.

By early 2010, I acquired 6 boxes (50 sheets per box) at several stores’ warehouses and this was the last remaining stock that I could find. By the spring of 2011, when I finished my 2011 February show at Ceres gallery, there were only three boxes left unused. Then by the summer of that year, I noticed that the remaining paper started showing some discoloration. The supposedly pure white paper was turning slightly yellowish white that indicated that the expiration date had almost passed.

Around that time, I inquired the director of Ceres about the possibility of my doing another show, not only because I had enough new images to show, but because I had the paper issue in my mind. I simply wanted to utilize my last remaining Kodak paper before it become completely unusable. Therefore if a viewer at the exhibit notices that the paper used for this show shows subtle differences in shading it is because of the above reason.

In January 2012, while I was preparing for this show, Eastman Kodak filed for bankruptcy. I would just like to say thank you to the Kodak Company for having been the producer of my beloved paper and film with which I was able to achieve many creative goals, and also for their 131 years of incomparable dedication to the art of film photography.

I also would like to say thank you to my mother who passed away on June 4th 2011 for her life-long support.