July 1, 2013
Ben & Elia visitors to Japan for the first time, drove in from Tokyo for a very romantic photo session in the midst of the Sakura in full bloom (and adored by all Japanese for a brief week of eating and drinking and of course photos.) It was the hottest day of the Spring too and we took our time from morning to late afternoon, breaking for kimono dressing.I walked them through the crazy busy gardens of the the Heian Shrine, visitors from China lining to cross the garden ponds and bridges, parted to let us take photos, you wouldn`t know that we weren`t alone there! Catching the moment surrounded by blooms in the sun and in shade of the trees.
Then we strolled up along the pretty Shirakawa creek running through old streets of wooden houses, to Yasaka Shrine and the kimono dressing shop, in the epicentre of the geisha world. In the shop there was a young Tokyo couple, very cool-looking dressed in kimono. They told us they were here just for the day, by Shinkansen fast train, to dress up in traditional dress in their ancient city, it always impresses me that young people will take the time and pay the premium to feel a real connection to their culture in a sort of time trip a hundred years back to old Kyoto! By the way, the large technology company Shimadzu, ran an ad this year showing the famous time travelling Delorean car parked on the very same old streets of Gion, with a young man from the Meiji era getting in for a ride! We had a good day of portraits in various sites in Gion until we captured everything we wished for, and I left the two in kimono to wander while I relaxed and returned home to edit the photos. We had all enjoyed the day.
My first romantic portrait subjects of the new year, a sweet young couple from Hong Kong, wishing to dress in kimono and be photographedin the special places in Gion, in the heart of old Kyoto. They loved my photos, and places we walked to, and I even got a hug from Raymond!when we said goodbye.
Followed geisha and maiko one evening February 2nd for Setsubun, the night of “obake” or ghosts, for the tradition of the antique New Year, costumed geisha and maiko, running from teahouse to “okiya” to entertain, and only I and another western man, very youngwere waiting in the doorways, and a beautiful Japanese couple in kimono, were patiently there too, but only I with camera it seemed.
Transnational Art; contemporary art exhibition in Osaka at the Enokojima Centre at Awaza Station was a large group show of almost 70 Japanese and foreign fine artists and photographers. You can see some photos from the show here. It was great fun for me, I got to show new self portrait series photos, and lots of friends and students came to see what we were doing. John Wells and I drove there along with Peter Macintosh`s artwork, with friends another day, I loved it!
The Kyoto Journal magazine issue Fresh Currents; (Japan`s flow from a nuclear past to a renewable future). http://www.freshcurrents.orgI was really pleased to contribute a few photos to illustrate informed articles on the status of clean energy vs pollution of Japan by radiation and carbon dioxide.look to pages: 114 & 147 for my photos. This brought me out to
beautiful Arashiyama, to the Hoso river, with Eric Johnston of the Japan Times,on the hottest summer day, to photograph a mini hydropower generator newly installed on the wide river, near the famous Togetsukyo (“moon crossing”)
Bridge.AND… I got a signed lithograph by wonderful artist Brian Williams, of that scraggly old, I
mean famous tree, the Jomonsugi, in Yakushima island, if you ever get there, and hike 10 hours. That tree is the first thing I see every morning, hanging above my waking cat Jiali.
September 30th 2012
Obama Fukui traditional wooden barrel factory
I drove along Lake Biwako east of Kyoto, and then NW along the old highway through
mountains and valleys, along wide shallow rivers with old villages strung along the
winding route. The misty villages lay along the green hillsides, with the sharp steep roofs of old farmhouses and funky cafes asking drivers to stop. It took 2 hours in the rain up and down the mountain roads listening to good old George Harrison & Eric Clapton live in Osaka 1991, the concert I saw!
The road leveled out into rice fields and signs saying to Obama, in English, then the grey ocean of the Japan Sea, the wind growing because the typhoon was passing, then two more tunnels and the little factory on the slope. Yoshio greeted me at the door, and then his loving wife Chika arrived. The factory warehouse, with a haze of sawdust in the air, and sitting on the cutting machines and lathes, and big boxes full of small wooden barrels of different sizes stacked. They use these little barrels to sell pickled Tai, a fish delicacy sold in old Nishikikoji market street in the heart of Kyoto, where I walk almost every week, on my way to work. We set up a table amongst the machines and the beautiful simple traditional
wood barrels with one hot light and some reflectors, my Canon 60D on my tripod, and a small flash attached to the Canon. We got different levels of lighting foreground and back, and some portraits. It all went well. We had a good time, and it was
charming to meet another family business started by the grandfather, and run by a loving couple with 4 daughters! I left as the wind came up stronger, and they led me to a good fish restaurant a short distance from the breakers on the seawall. I had a good local teshoku lunch of tempura with a strange green slimy bowl of seaweed? rice, pickles vegetables Japanese style. Then I hit the road back, the way I came, wind and rain blowing across the roadway, not many cars, people were home safe, but I had to get back to Kyoto, and after an hour I thought I`d better go slower on the high roads, because there were no real roadside
barriers, and broken trees littered the roadway that I had to drive around, I knew that
wind could blow my little minivan over the edge. I made it down to the Lake Biwako plain where two men in white rain suits were stopping all traffic from entering the road I`d just emerged from. All was well, I got home safe with the photos in the camera.
Another small solo Kansai adventure.
Photos of interesting businesses around Kyoto
September 20 2012
I drove the big minivan on the highways west of Kyoto through Osaka and Kobe, and
reached Okayama City limits, 200 km south through wide ripened rice fields to a small village
where I found the carbon desiccant company, another small family business.
The owner had lived there all his life and he was in his 70`s it seems though
you can`t be sure with the ages of Japanese people.
Daylight was brilliant and it was easy to photograph the boxes and bags, with the workers,
shy country women, bagging the carbon and packaging it. I didn`t need lights really but just
the camera flash to reveal the eyes, and a polarizing filter. Driving back, I passed over a bridge
across a large inlet of the Inland Sea, with lots of green islands.
Saying goodbye to Okayama and back onto the clean highway to Kyoto.
This month has seen weekly adventures to photograph businesses.
In Kyoto there was a family bamboo business on an old street near Nijo castle,
and I took too many photos, 150, because they requested only several of them.
It was fun for Junko and I to meet the family and workers,
a real Kyoto family business feeling was there, and walls of long bamboo poles
leaning everywhere, stacked and curing. Some Meiji era black poles too.
Expensive bamboo cured into wood and made to last. Kyoto homes have
bamboo in the fabric of the walls and floors and ceilings, at least many
homes still do, especially the older wooden houses, the machiya too.
Using my new Canon 60D with only the portrait length zoom lens and
flash in the camera, mounted on my heavy old Slik tripod,
I managed to get the photos they wanted, luckily.
And in lower light sometimes. My lovely new Canon!
Then I was sent to Nara, by the ancient narrow road through south Kyoto
and navigating with my little iPhone navigator, did I get out of the slow
road past temples and shrines and old neighborhoods of wooden machiya
and then onto the new highway, quickly passing Nara, though it looked
not very old from the highway, you wouldn`t imagine it was a 1,300 year old
city, but in the distance I could see the reconstruction of the original wooden
palace, sitting lonely, red and grey in the middle of a huge field.
The business I was closing in on, was a container company, in the district of new
shopping malls and rusting warehouses, they were selling and restoring old used
shipping containers, as you see daily on the back of trucks, or maybe
on docks in Osaka and container ships everywhere. I stood the friendly boss
in the front of walls of containers, while I tried to make him as handsome as possible,
of course, his round baby face and thick body, in his business suit sweating in the heat outdoors.
It went well and fewer photos were needed this time, and work went faster.
Driving back, relaxed, my eye glimpsed a store of the Hard Off company chain, which sells
of course, computer hardware and lots of guitars and electronics
all used, and so named Hard Off, the sister store is Book Off!
I turned around and stopped my big minivan there, because I know they
sell used LPs, and in stacks and stacks of pretty Japanese pop from the 70`s
and 80`s, I found Bruce Springsteen`s The River, and Born to Run and Sade!
and for ¥ 300 each! I love the LP`s, because of the warmth of sound, the sweet nostalgia
of black discs I grew up handling, and most surely because of the photography!
Large enough, and well printed enough to study and imagine where the musicians were photographed,
expressions of 20th century art on paper, like photographic prints. You can see the
evolution of photographic arts in those record sleeves, the evolution of grainy of film made in
the 50`s 60`s 70`s are there to be seen, and innovations in lighting and darkroom techniques year by year.
Next are Okayama City limits, a carbon desiccant company and later
to Obama, not the president, but his small town namesake on the Japan Sea
to photograph a traditional wooden barrel maker there. I`d been last in Obama
on the very night of President Obama`s victory in November 2008, I was
there to photograph whatever happened, with the hula ladies with the Kenyan
Ambassador from Tokyo, and the lovely CNN reporter Kyung Lah reporting
live around the world from the midst of the Obama hulu women, we were
all thrilled to have our 1 minute of world fame!
September 9th 2012 Kyoto
I`ve been doing a series of company portraits in Kyoto and now Nara
Wednesday I visited a wonderful old Kyoto Bamboo company
The grandfather was in the workshop heating and bending long bamboo
into curved shapes, stoically, he seemed amused by us taking photos
His son and young grandson were working there too.
How beautiful are the things made from bamboo, interiors, exterior fixtures
tea ceremony utensils, mats and lamps.
August 17 2012
Aaron Berman, my Kyoto friend, asking me, should he get a ticket to see
the Beach Boys 50th Anniversary Concert in Osaka, I said, if you go I`ll go.
We went, to a sort of large high school event hall, Municipal Central Gymnasium.
Fitting! A sprinkling of foreign guys and gals among hundreds of Japanese of all ages,
and then a tap on my shoulder, and there was Inagakisan, and his friends, all longtime Beach Boys
fans. I ran into someone Japanese I knew at a Beach Boys concert in Osaka!
A new experience. And then there was Brian Wilson, (looking like he just woke up,
alone in that old childhood room of his), at the keyboards on the stage left
Mike Love & Al Jardine & Bruce Johnston & David Marks, and several young virile musicians.
Their music woke us up from the first chord, they can actually sing well, still, and into their 70`s,
they inspired me and sent my thoughts and feelings back to my youth in Niagara Falls.
My friend Terry`s older brother Mick Delaney`s worn Beach Boys LP collection, which I dubbed to
my Sony open reel stereo, my “portable tape recorder” as big as a suitcase.
Still moved by Surfer Girl & Fun Fun Fun & Good Vibrations & Sail On Sailor
I was moved to get out of my seat in back, when the audience was moved to stand up!
I walked up the aisle until I stopped 3 or 4 seats from the stage,
where I grooved through most of the concert, loved it. My hand was on my
Canon G11 pocket camera now, and wondered if I could get the courage to take
it out and photograph my very own shot of Brian, a musician I`d followed all of my life really.
I`d known he was mentally withdrawn and very troubled and ill since I was a teen, and I always
hoped, as Paul McCartney did, that Brian would find his voice again.
He did, helping me realize that there was still hope for me too, later in my life
to become the photographer I always wanted to be… sort of anyway.
The security guy in front of the stage was looking in my direction a lot,
so I couldn`t take out my camera, but when the concert ended people pulled out their mobile
phones and so I did take a few shots with my camera until that security guy gestured to me to quit,
which I did. So don`t think you can`t get a photo at concerts, if you wait for the right moment.
the Beach Boys 50th Anniversary Concert in Osaka, and I said, if you go I`ll go.
We went, to a large sort of high school event hall, Municipal Central Gymnasium.
Fitting! We were surrounded by Japanese people of all ages, and then a tap on my shoulder, and there was Inagakisan, and his friends, all longtime Beach Boys
fans. So I ran into someone Japanese I knew at a Beach Boys concert in Osaka!
A new experience, and then there was Brian Wilson looking like he just woke up,
and didn`t notice anyone was looking at him, at the keyboards on the stage left
and Mike Love & Al Jardine & Bruce Johnston & David Marks, and several young verily musicians.
Their music woke me up from the first chord, they actually can sing well, still, into their 70`s,
they inspire me and took my thoughts and feelings back to my youth in Niagara Falls.
My friend Terry`s older brother Mick Delaney`s worn Beach Boys collection, which I dubbed to my big Sony open reel stereo tape recorder, my little portable tape recorder as big as a suitcase. Still moved I was by Surfer Girl & Fun Fun Fun & Good Vibrations & Sail On Sailor
and I was moved to get out of my seat way back when the audience was moved to stand up!
I walked up the aisle until I stopped 3 or 4 seats from the stage, where I grooved through most of the concert, loved it, but my hand was on my Canon G11 pocket camera now, and wondered if I could get the courage to take it out and photograph my own shot of Brian, a musician I`d followed all of my life really. I knew he was mentally withdrawn and very troubled and ill since I was a teen, and I always hoped, as Paul McCartney did, that Brian would find his voice again. When he did, I realized that there was still hope for me too, later in my life to become the photographer I always wanted to be… sort of anyway.