Photoessay: living Tokyo vignettes

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The choice of title is a deliberate, non static one: the suggestion of motion in each of these images contributes to the feeling that we are viewing something transient, temporal and busy. Despite the density and size of the population, Tokyo somehow can still manage to feel quiet and isolated and times – I put this down to having something to do with the very ordered nature of society and the existence of very formal structures/expectations that mean nobody is in Ginza before about 11am since nothing is open, or Maronouchi is rather dead after 9pm and on weekends as everybody has gone home. It’s possible to make images that make the place feel quite cold and inhuman even though most of the time, this couldn’t be further form the truth. This set looks for a little chaos and humanity. You’ll probably also notice it’s quite cinematic, despite being mostly shot with relatively slow lenses. MT

This series was shot with a Canon 100D, 24STM and 55-250STM lenses, an X1D-50c and 90mm, and a H6D-100c and 100mm. Post processing was completed using the techniques in the weekly workflow and PS Workflow III. Travel to Tokyo vicariously with How To See Ep.2: Tokyo, learn to be stealthy with S1: Street Photography and see how to capture the essence of a location with T1: Travel Photography.

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Photoessay: Beyond human scale

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I’ve always thought of Tokyo as a city of extremes: the insanely vast urban sprawl vs minuscule personal spaces; the pursuit of the ultimate food-art vs the ubiquitous convenience stores and vending machines; incredibly opulent wealth and luxury beyond imagination, and more homeless people than you might think. The futuristic abuts horrible 1970s square-concrete; indecipherable quipu of power lines knot the tops of poles, yet streets are laid so precisely that there’s material used in the middle of intersections for better grip. At larger distances, this devolves into something both more homogeneous and at the same time, distinctive – as neighbourhoods are somewhat cohesive. Even somewhere like Omotesando, where architects compete for the most unusual structure, it seems that such very competition creates a different kind of uniformity: what would be exceptional somewhere else isn’t when taken in multiples. It’s this very dichotomy I’ve tried to capture here – and with as few visual cues to scale as possible. MT

This series was shot with a Canon 100D, 24STM and 55-250STM lenses, an X1D-50c and 90mm, and a H6D-100c and 100mm. Post processing was completed using the techniques in the weekly workflow and PS Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Tokyo street monochromes IV

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It’s interesting to see how my style and way of seeing has evolved since the last instalment in this series from a year ago; or three years ago (here and here). Perhaps it might be even more interesting to go back a year or two further still and pull out similar material from previous visits. Tokyo is a unique place in my photographic repertoire: I’ve visit every year since 2006 generally at least once once or more, for a short but intense period, and get quite a lot of shooting done because the environment itself is so different and somehow always inspiring. This means that whatever is captured in those trips tends to be a snapshot of the best of my current creative state at the time, being in the right environment and having the right subject matter. At the same time, it’s also somewhat self-consistent in that it’s also fundamental the same sort of environment, the same sort of subject matter, and thus all the better to reflect changes in oneself. I always shoot some ‘conventional’ street in Tokyo, even if I haven’t been doing it previously; I put it down to the place, the people, and the variety of daily life that’s so different to my normal reality. MT

This series was shot with a Canon 100D, 24STM and 55-250STM lenses, and an X1D-50c and 90mm, and post processed with The Monochrome Masterclass workflow. Travel to Tokyo vicariously with How To See Ep.2: Tokyo, learn to be stealthy with S1: Street Photography and see how to capture the essence of a location with T1: Travel Photography.

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Photoessay: Because it is Tokyo and there must be architecture

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But even though Tokyo is defender of the modern, the minimalist and the avant-garde, it wouldn’t be a fair representation with a little subversive chaotic mess to sneak into the curation somewhere – in many ways, a fair representation of the real city. Whilst most of the quick-expansion concrete boxes are being rapidly erased by more modern and more interesting structures – especially in the more expensive parts of Tokyo – there are one or two left. I can’t help but wonder if in future they’ll turn out to be historical curiosities much like what we think of as ‘traditional’ buildings are today…I can only hypothesise everything is relative. MT

This series was shot with a Canon 100D, 24STM and 55-250STM lenses, an X1D-50c and 90mm, and a H6D-100c and 100mm. Post processing was completed using the techniques in the weekly workflow and PS Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Autumn in the Nezumuseum garden

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I was perhaps a week or two late and off-peak color; thees things tend to be heavily weather-dependent and extremely difficult to time with any degree of reliability. Worse, when you’ve got to travel many thousand kilometres to get there. But I think few will complain. There’s something fundamentally unnatural about such intensely red leaves, but at the same time something hugely enthralling about watching the seasons change and mark the progression of time; more so for somebody who’s spent a large portion of their lives in the tropics, where the only seasons we have are ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ – often in the same day. If you have to find an ‘ideal’ location to view the leaves in Tokyo, I’d point you to Rikyugien and Nezu – the latter of which is much more intimate and a little less manicured/planned, which gives the place a much more natural feel. Being coupled with an exceptionally good cultural museum funded by the eponymous railway mogul Nezu-san and designed by Kengo Kuma doesn’t do any harm, either. MT

This series was shot with a Canon 100D, 24STM and an X1D-50c and 90mm. Post processing was completed using the techniques in the weekly workflow and PS Workflow III. Learn more about capturing the essence of a location with T1: Travel Photography; we also visit the Nezumuseum in How To See Ep.2: Tokyo.

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Photoessay: Serious Tokyo

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I can only surmise this is a cultural thing, or I’m going to the wrong places – in the ten years or so I’ve been regularly visiting Tokyo, the majority of people, the majority of the time – appear to have quite a load on their minds. Maybe it’s the economy, maybe it’s the government, maybe it’s because they don’t see a way out from whatever they’ve been doing for the last 30 years – oddly, though Japan once felt so societally, culturally and technologically different from the rest of the world as to be light years ahead like some porto-future, I keep getting the impression that everywhere else seems to have caught up in the last couple of decades. There is no longer this sense of wonder when I arrive, but more like a comfortable familiarity and a search for something hidden – which I can never quite quantify, but occasionally find in the form of something very traditional (think hundreds of years of continuity) or reinterpreted (hundreds of years of continuity but with modern influences). I’ve always found it interesting that Japan can be such a philosophical paradox: on one hand, so traditionally rigid, and on the other, still rather freeform and kooky. Or perhaps I’m just not being allowed into the wilder karaoke and hostess bar places… MT

This series was shot with a Canon 100D, 24STM and 55-250STM lenses, and an X1D-50c and 90mm, and post processed with Photoshop Workflow III. Travel to Tokyo vicariously with How To See Ep.2: Tokyo, learn to be stealthy with S1: Street Photography and see how to capture the essence of a location with T1: Travel Photography.

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Photoessay: On the verge of anonymity

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An experiment of sorts, today: more ‘stream of consciousness’ style photography, but this time shot through my left eye instead of my (usual) right. The idea is to test the hypothesis of left-brain-right-brain influence on structure, order and general perception; personally, I think using the non-dominant eye tends to result in somewhat more organic overall structure and composition. That, and significantly more skew for some reason – I didn’t seem to hold the camera straight in any of these. It’s also been a long time since I’ve had the time to go out on my own for a day or two with no objective other than to wander around and shoot the streets; Tokyo is of course a great place for this with no end of possible material. MT

This series was shot with a Canon 100D, 24STM and 55-250STM lenses, and an X1D-50c and 90mm, and post processed with The Monochrome Masterclass workflow. Travel to Tokyo vicariously with How To See Ep.2: Tokyo, learn to be stealthy with S1: Street Photography and see how to capture the essence of a location with T1: Travel Photography.

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Photoessay: Tokyo street monochromes III

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Yin-yang tribute to Fan Ho

I actually prefer to think of these as little stories, or vignettes – I suppose that should really be the objective of street photography; to capture an transient and narrative element of life in a documentary way. That little slice of time might not be significant to anybody other than the main players, but it’s no excuse for a lack of story. I’m going to complete my version of the story by adding titles…even if audience preferences may differ 🙂 Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D5500, 55-200/4-5.6 DX VR, Sony A7RII, Zeiss 2.8/21 Loxia, Zeiss 1.8/85 Batis, and Contax Zeiss 2.8/85 Sonnar and post processed with the Monochrome Masterclass workflow. You can also get your weekly dose of PS right here

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Photoessay: Motion in Tokyo/ The Idea of Man II

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I view The Idea of Man project as mostly complete; the story is tight and stylistically consistent. But I’ve been thinking a lot about its sequel in the time since the exhibition; to begin with – is there one at all? Where does one go from the story of the individual finding their place in the world? The answer came to me after some long exposure urban landscape: it’s in community, in groups, in the flow and interaction of individuals. And that idea will be at the core of The Idea of Man II.

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Photoessay: Tokyo solos

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There are times when you shoot to push the envelope; others when you need to work to an objective, and still others when you feel like but shooting with no particular objective in mind in more of a meditative state. We tend to default back to habit – which can result in some very similar images to ones we’ve made before, but also a sort of liberation where you shoot ‘in flow’ and almost let the environment do the driving. This was one of those times – I present nothing too serious or deep today: just a series of individual (or are they?) Tokyoites. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Leica Q, Nikon D5500 and Sony A7RII and post processed with PS Workflow II.

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