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Nakai Akira RWB Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong

Portraits: Nakai Akira – Rauh Welt Begriff (RWB)

So I meet a lot of people as a portrait photographer – it’s part of the job. Another part of the job is that the people who end up in front of my lens are generally pretty interesting people, which makes a lot of sense, because there are not many magazines out there who will pay me good money to go and photograph a regular someone who no one wants to read about. This fact notwithstanding however, there are a lot of times when I’ve gotten an email or a call about a job to go photograph someone, and I’ve never heard of that person or their company. This is not particularly unusual, because there are a lot of interesting people in the world and they each have their own thing going in their personal circle of influence, which just hasn’t happened to intersect my own yet. Exploring all of these circles that add up together to create the vast and varied weave of humanity is what keeps this job interesting and fun.

So when I got a call to go shoot a certain fellow called Nakai-san who owns this Porsche modding shop called RWB out in the countryside of Chiba, I thought ‘Cool, a car modding dude, this should be fun’. I drove all the way out to Chiba, met him, had a great time photographing him in his awesome man-cave slash workshop, and then I went home upon which I kind of forgot his name (my bad).

It was maybe a year later when I was in conversation with my older brother and I showed him the same shots that I had photographed at this cool Porsche-modding workshop out in Chiba that he exclaimed something along the lines of “Holy shit you photographed Nakai-san from RWB?’

I think I must have shrugged or something because he then began to rant at me at how famous he is in the auto world and how Nakai-san’s custom body kits for Porsches are some of the most sought after in the world and how his style has influenced the whole automotive design industry. He told me that any car enthusiast would give their left nut not only to meet Nakai-san but also to hang out at the original garage in Chiba where he started to mod Porsches in his own time, not knowing that they would become an international sensation and he would eventually have workshops in the US, Europe, the UK, Hong Kong and so on.

Definitely one of those ‘well, what do you know’ moments.

Anyway, my point is not that I need to do more research about my subjects, because I clearly have learnt from that mistake years ago, but rather that I love having this job where I can find myself hanging out with greatness, in his garage which is supposedly the Bethlehem of car modding, and that’s just a regular day at work for me. So I guess I should probably end the blog post at this point before I start sounding even more insufferable.

Seriously though I love photographing the people and places in the auto industry here in Japan (there’s so much of it!) and through the next few posts or so I’ll be putting up some of the more interesting stuff I’ve been out shooting related to cool car stuff.

See you soon!

 

Nakai Akira RWB Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong

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Kimono - Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (34)

A Kimono Dyeing Factory in Tokyo

It’s a new year but I’m continuing my series from last year, which is to show you a bunch of cool kimono-related things I shot for this book a few years ago. In the last blog post I focused on a really exclusive and high end kimono dyeing atelier run by a single guy. Here is a different kind of kimono dyeing factory that is a little bit on the other end of the spectrum, but no less cool.

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The first thing you see when you arrive at this place is this enormous rack for hanging and drying these really, really long bolts of kimono fabric that have just been dyed. It’s really impressive and there are plenty walking about on top of it hanging bits of fabrics or taking them in for folding. More photos of this thing later.

By the way I used to have the Nikon system until I sold it and bought into the mirrorless camera revolution – I don’t miss anything about Nikon all that much except for the spectacular Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8. That thing is the most compelling reason to shoot Nikon and I used it a lot in this factory because there was so much visual interest that could be crammed into the one frame. You’ll see.

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When you enter the factory this is the first thing you’ll see off to your right. There’s steam everywhere and the whole place is lit up by frosted windows and bare fluorescent tubes. Massive drums of who-knows-what (probably dye) are in the middle of the floor and the empties are stacked haphazardly in a corner, waiting to come crashing down if a dumb photographer with no spatial awareness decides to walk into them. (it didn’t happen but I came close)

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A closer look at one of the work benches. That lighting from those bare fluorescents is literally the best thing ever. I need to take those with me for every portrait.

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Here’s a different workbench for what looks like a different type of work. This area seems similar to the stencil-type dyeing that I saw in Hirose Atelier.

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This old guy right here was the coolest dude in the whole place. He was just working away paying me no mind the whole time I had a camera in his face (which was a long time), more often than not with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. I because slightly obsessed with him, needless to say.

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Here’s a closer look at what the old guy was doing – using a stencil and trowel to imprint a pattern into fabric.

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I have no idea what this guy is doing (they kind of just let me inside the factory and told me to have fun – no explanations) – but steam is cool. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t toxic.

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Another stencilling shot from above.

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Semi-completed bolts are waiting for rinsing before they can be dried.

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A worker sets a bolt of cloth in the rinsing machine, which is a really long trough and a metal tumbler that really violently drags the newly dyed fabric through the water. It’s really surprising no one has lost an arm to that thing.

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Here is the machine at work, rinsing or rather, beating the excess dye off the fabric.

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This multicolored stack of kimono fabric is awesome.

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Another worker wrings out the kimono fabric once it has gone through the rinsing machine.

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Not sure what’s going on here but don’t you just love the lighting and how cool the interior of the factory looks? Getting to visit places like these is what makes me glad to be a photographer.

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Really not sure what’s going on here but if I had to guess…actually I can’t begin to guess because I don’t want to look silly if I get it wrong. They are obviously doing something right though because the color is really starting so show through nicely.

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Pulled back shot of the same person doing the same process on a different piece of cloth.

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The lighting in these places just blows my mind. I’ve never had such an easy or enjoyable time taking photos.

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Back outside, under the massive drying rack for bolts of cloth that are over 20 meters long.

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A worker prepares to hang a few shorter pieces of fabric.

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That 14mm sure comes in handy in a place like this. Almost wish I hadn’t sold it…

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Now we’re on top of that structure with some other workers. Those gaps are big enough to put your entire foot through so you’d better watch your step! No safety equipment required, because ain’t nobody got time for that.

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Alternate view showing the biggest laundry rack in the world.

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Inside the room where the finished fabrics get rolled up and stored. Hope they’ve stocked up on mothballs!

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This here’s the owner of the factory, so I shot a few quick portraits of him while I was there.

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To end with, here’s a photo of my favorite dude :)

Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong - Year of the Monkey (2)

It’s… the YEAR OF THE MONKEY!

Wahey! Congratulations all for surviving another year, although judging by the amount of KFC I just ate, that sentiment may be short lived for me. ANYWAY the new year is a time for reflection, a time for taking stock and quiet contemplation, and I’m happy to say that looking back on last year I can hold my head up high. For one thing, I all but DOUBLED the number of blog posts I put up compared to previous years (6 compared to 3) and managed a net gain of 13 Twitter followers, which for me is a really big deal because we all want to be popular, especially if you’re an Internashonal Fotografer like myself. So here’s to a successful 2016 in which I consolidated my status as social media powerhouse.

By far though, my most favorite thing I made last year was definitely The Last Sentoshi – a camera-themed special effects superhero short film which I wrote, directed shot and edited, which NO ONE WATCHED, so that was cool. Hope to create more film in 2016 and since it’s really fun even though it can cause you to tear your hair out although the hair tearing is of the fun kind so I don’t mind so much.

Some things are a constant though and this year is no exception for my annual Nengajyo, which involves bringing together some awesome people that I’ve worked with/hung out with and making them dress in silly costumes to make a greeting card. The year of 2016 is the Year of the Monkey, which was really convenient as Maiko was able to bring out my simian qualities using her wicked makeup skillz, saving us from having to use real animals like the debacle that was this one.

Anyway here it is and I hope you enjoy 2016 a million trillion billion times more than 2015! Thank you to all those around the world who support and follow me and I’ll try my best to make 2016 as goofily awesome as possible.

If you must know, the gear used was a Hasselblad H5D-40 w/ Carl Zeiss T* 40mm and 80mm V-series lenses, with lighting by Profoto and maybe one token Einstein.

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This is me! I look pretty awesome as a space monkey, I must say, although it might have something to do with the colliding planets behind me or my skeleton buddy, or the awesome makeup Maiko did to monkify me. Protip – when in doubt always include a skeleton in your photos – you immediately get mad cred for juxtaposing life and death into the one picture, which makes you look smart. Plus you can quote Shakespeare and it doesn’t seem out of place.

What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel! in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals! And yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me; no, nor Woman neither; though by your smiling you seem to say so.

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It is my wife! She deserves all the credit for putting up with my money spending ways and occasionally disappearing to do photoshoots in odd parts of Japan. I’d watch out for her because if you get on her bad side she’ll hit you with her triple nunchuck made of femurs, and that would not be a pleasant thing to see, make no bones about it.

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Maiko is the only other person apart from me and my wife who has been in all 4 of my Nengajo so far. She’s a makeup artist monster and will transform you into whatever you need. Also, kudos to her for sticking around for 4 whole Nengajos and not getting scared away by requests such as ‘make somebody look like a snake‘, ‘make me look like a monkey’, ‘give him a gaping wound’ etc.  Also, fun fact: all of her tattoos are real, which really helped sell the post apocalyptic wasteland raider theme that I was trying to go for. Gotta love the cake on the left arm.

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What’s galling about Hamish is that he does such a good job assisting me that I keep getting him back, which means I keep needing to pay him. In fact he does such a good job that I may as well just hand the camera to him as well. JOKES. Seriously though Hamish is a fine art/landscape photographer who actually has shows in Sydney and Tokyo coming up this year, and if his website was up and running I would have linked it. Oh well. Pro costuming tip: ever need a futuristic looking space helmet but don’t have two nickels to rub together? Never fear – find two bits of roughly spherical plastic, spraypaint them, stick them together and fudge the posing until it looks vaguely decent. It’s a photo, not a video!

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Last but not least there’s Jamie, who’s having his first Nengajo shoot with me. If you’re wondering why he looks so at home in his role of psychopathic wasteland murderer, then it’s probably because he would be one, if he could. Mad props to him for taking the shinkansen up from Osaka just for the shoot, and also for having that scar under the right nipple put in as per my request. Fun fact: Jamie was the only one with whom I engaged in watersports with this year, and you can interpret that as you will.

Thanks for sticking around! I’ll try to post even more this year, I’d say hopefully I can get into the 10s of blog posts but I don’t want to get too ahead of myself.

Later!

 

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Hirose Atelier – A traditional kimono dyeing workshop in Tokyo

I know I’ve been harping on about it endlessly but when you’re a photographer in a country such as Japan that is so rich traditional culture and arts, you’re going to have some easy days on the job.

Case in point, that time when I visited Hirose Atelier to take photos for an awesome book called Kimono Now. This place uses traditional Edo Komon stencilling techniques to print extremely intricate and detailed patterns or illustrations onto kimono fabric. Hirose-san, the owner, is a young star in the kimono world and one of the few remaining masters of this craft. It was absolutely fascinating visiting his workshop and seeing the painstaking process of dyeing and patterning swathes of fabric that will eventually be made into kimono.

Here are some outtakes from the book, hope you enjoy them!

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Hirose-san lays out a bolt of fabric on one of his long tables in preparation for dyeing.

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This is the interior of the workshop. The boards in the ceiling are long tables to lay the fabric out on. The lighting was super even and of consistent color temperature as well, which I assume is essential for the work they do here. It also made it super easy for me to take photos.

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Hirose-san puts a stencil in place and makes ready to apply the dye using that spatula thing he has in his mouth

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Applying the dye, which looks a bit like mud, requires a lot of concentration and even application of force. Check out his forearm, he’s ripped!Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (31)Some fabric that has been through the process gathers in folds on a bench.

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Here is a wider shot of the whole process. As you can see the interior lighting was amazing, which helped me out a lot.Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (27)Several of the wooden tools used to apply the dye hang drying above the sink.

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Alternate angle showing the progress he has made along the roll of kimono fabric.

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This guy in the back seemed responsible for laying out and pinning down the fabric.

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Here’s a roll of mostly completely patterned fabric. 

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Detail of previous shot

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Once a roll is done Hirose-san rolls it all up by hand. You can tell he’s done it a million times already because he’s really fast at it

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In this tiny room is kept every single stencil and pattern he uses for his work, catalogued in the huge books that he his currently showing me. Some stencils are tiny, others are huge, requiring them to be rolled up for storage. 

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Detail of a bird stencil as an example of some of the more intricate patterns he can do.

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Stencils that have been stacked and stored in order. The place was kept fastidiously dry to avoid mould growing, and other damaging side effects of moisture. 

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I’ve actually forgotten what this sawdust is for! (the shoot was over a year ago) Anyway I thought it was a cool photo.

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I took the opportunity to take a portrait since the environment and lighting were just so perfect. I was still using my Nikon D4 and zoom lenses at this point. There are some things I miss about that setup and there are some things that I definitely don’t miss, such as the weight and inconsistent autofocus.

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Alternate portrait of Hirose-san back in the main workshop, once again loving the available lighting making full use of it.

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Just the entrance to the workshop.

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Here are some tubs of the dye used in his workshop. He makes them all by hand and you can see the process below:

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Heating up some ingredients for mixing the dye on an old stove.

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Alternate angle – gotta get that sweet steam coming out the pot.

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Measuring and mixing for the final product.

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Wide shot to show the interior of the workspace where the dye gets made.

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Here’s a real close up so you can see just how fine the patterning is. All of it is done by hand!

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Finally here’s another portrait of Hirose-san himself to close out this photo series.

That’s that for this week (month?), and I’ll try to be back soon with some more interesting photo-related shenanigans that I’ve gotten up to recently. The photos are piling up!

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Kimono Designer Jotaro Saito + Tokyo Fashion Icon Kumamiki

 

Sometimes you really have to work for your shots, and sometimes all you need to do is show up.

When you have a top class kimono designer providing attire, an entire Japanese restaurant booked out for your location and a beautiful  model organized for the entire day then I can definitively enter that into the ‘glad to be a photographer’ variety of days that I’m on the job.

As I mentioned in my previous blog post I was fortunate enough to work with Manami Okazaki on her most recent book ‘Kimono Now‘, which is in stores currently. There were plenty of photos taken and a lot of the shots weren’t used so I thought I’d post some of the off-cuts here on my blog.

Ah the memories. I was still using a Nikon D4 back in those days :)

Jotaro Saito’s website is here for anyone curious, and he has a pretty cool showroom in Roppongi Hills for those who need kimonos on the cutting edge of fashion.

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Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong - Kimono Now (13) This is the man himself:Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong - Kimono Now (11)

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Next up is Kumamiki (@kumamiki), who runs a mega-popular Youtube channel devoted to Tokyo kawaii fashion and also designs and produces her own line of clothing. She’s a badass. And super mega cute.

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So there you have it – the text is a little on the light side this time but that’s because I’ve been spending time writing random op-eds for Digital Rev and I’m definitely not used to writing this much. You can read the first article here; it’s a short piece on why lighting may or may not be relevant these days (hint, it is).

I’ll be back with more outtakes from this book Kimono Now – it was a real blast making it and I got to visit and photograph some really exceptional people.

A Book! Kimono Now by Manami Okazaki

Here’s a philosophical question: if a tree falls in the forest but no one’s around to hear it, does it still make a sound?

Answer: Yes of course it fucking does.

Just like if you write a post for your blog and nobody’s around to read it, doesn’t mean it somehow doesn’t exist. It’s there all right; it’s just unpopular.

I’m kind of on a blogging roll at the moment, which is to say that I’ve made at least 1 post per month so far, which for me is a fairly regular basis. This at least means that the amount of blog posts I’ve made this year has surpassed the amount of people who actually read this blog (I’d say hi to my mum at this point but I’m certain even she doesn’t stop by here). Anyway, I know this sort of talk this doesn’t really befit an aspirant to the title of BEST FOTO BLOG EVARR but hey, things are things, and sometimes it’s alright to talk about things.

Here’s another question: if you shoot a photo and nobody bothers to look at it, does it still mean that a light sensitive surface was exposed to a convergence of light caused by a transmissive optical device for a precisely timed interval?

Answer: Yes of course it does. Just because no one’s looking at it doesn’t mean your photo never happened; it just doesn’t have any likes on Instagram.

The follow up question, and perhaps the more important one is: does it matter if no one is looking at your photos?

There’s a less definitive answer to that. I personally don’t have an opinion either way. Look or don’t look, it’s a free country. I generally shoot photos solely to please myself. I’ve mentioned it before but it’s akin to baseball cards. I like the process of collecting them (photos, that is) more than I like showing them off, but I also like it when someone looks at my collection and appreciates the time that’s gone into putting it together. I’m a little single-minded like that so it’s actually a pleasant surprise when I am reminded that indeed my photos actually are appearing in publications and stuff where completely random people can see them.

Of course, I know abstractly at the time of commissioning that my photos are going to be used on some pages somewhere in the world, but I never remember to ask for tearsheets and I hardly ever get sent a copy of the publication, so oftentimes I don’t even know which photo was used. But anyway, recently I received one such publication in which quite a few of my photos were used and I have to say it looks awesome .

The book in question is ‘Kimono Now’ by Okazaki Manami and is a real visual treat, going into the A-Zs of kimono production, fashion, history and contemporary culture. There are many great photos inside by many talented photographers, and somehow yours truly managed to be included.

I’ll be posting outtakes from the various cool shoots in the coming months (or years, depending on how I go) but for now here are some tearsheets and a photo of the cover so you know what to look for in case you feel like buying it!

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Finally – The Last Sentoshi has arrived

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Well, I’ve been promoted the living shit out of it for the last week or so, and here it is finally: the official release of “The Last Sentoshi”.

What is this? If you like photography and you like anime or superheroes, you might like this movie.

Why’d I do this? I dunno! But I really had a blast making it. I really have to thank Nissin Digital Japan (they make strobes) for actually having the balls to do something like this. They had my back every step of the way and really helped out on the production side of things. Not a lot of companies, especially in Japan, are quite so willing to put their trust in someone so untested such as myself. I also have to really thank the entire cast and crew for all of their own time they put in over our manic 3 day shoot. I’ll be writing up about the process of getting this project off the ground in future blog posts, as I really stepped out of my comfort zone for this project and as a result learnt a lot.

As for the AIR remote, it’s a wireless transceiver for their D700i strobe, and it’s really good. But promoting it isn’t the point of the movie. You’ll notice there are other camera/film/flash brands making their appearance here, not to mention the Nissin logo only makes an appearance for less than a second. That’s a testament to how much creative control the folks at Nissin surrendered to me, and how dedicated they were to making something good and entertaining, rather than a glorified ad for their new product.

By way of explanation, ‘Sentoshi’ is the pronunciation of “閃闘士”, which is a fictional term. Breaking down the Japanese characters we have 「閃」”sen”, which means flash, and 「闘士」”toshi” which means warrior. So Sentoshi = Flash Warrior, which didn’t sound very cool so I kept the title in its original Japanese. Hope that makes sense! Suggestions for a cool translation of ‘Sentoshi’ are super welcome!

Here are the English- subtitled versions and the straight Japanese versions. We worked really hard on it so I hope you enjoy it!

The trailer is here.

「最後の閃闘士」The Last Sentoshi: Trailer

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I’m a bandwagon jumper. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I like to do things that everyone is doing, especially if everyone else finds it popular. Photography is one of those things, and so is eating.

Recently another one of those popular things is superhero movies. I mean seriously, those things have really really taken off. Seems like about twenty of those things come out every year, and people can’t get enough of them. Me either. I’m watching them all, without fail. Except that Fantastic Four reboot, hoo boy. Josh Trank really screwed the pooch on that one.

Anyway getting back to the point, superhero movies the new bandwagon and I’m a bandwagon jumper, so guess what! I made a superhero movie. Kind of. More accurately it’s a short film and it’s more anime-inspired than superhero-inspired.

Here’s the trailer. The official release is on September 18. Hope you enjoy it and please share if you feel inclined!

Also, here is the English subtitled version for non-Japanese understanding folks!

Portraits from the archives: Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Given that I’m somewhat nominally in the creative business, I occasionally find myself indulging in the delusion that I am some kind of flighty auteur type whose sensitive needs and fancies are incomprehensible to the common man, and that the everyday grind of administrative tasks such as emailing and dressing presentably are beneath me. This I use as an excuse for when I eat an entire bag of Funyuns in one sitting while marathoning the extended Lord of the Rings Directors Cut in my underwear. It also helps stave off the guilt when I spend a whole day hungover playing video games. Hey, I’m a sensitive artiste you know, I need all of this special time to get inspiration for my work, and by special time I mean rewatching season 6 of Seinfeld for the eleventh time.

Human experience is all relative though and in my line of work I’m fortunate enough to meet lots of people who manage being both creatives as well as fully functioning adults at the same time. One such example is the Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethekul whose name I was extremely fearful about pronouncing right up until I met him and he said that I could call him Joe. Maybe he was being ironic, maybe that’s the moniker he actually goes by just so he doesn’t have to hear shutter monkeys like myself continually mangling his name but either way it works.

Anyway, if you’ve heard of Joe Weerasethekul, you’re obviously a film-goer of some taste. His feature films, 8 in total, are fixtures at fancy European film festivals, and a few years ago one of his works: ‘Uncle Boonmee Who Can Remember His Past Lives’ picked up some award called the Palm d’Or from this relatively unknown film festival at a place called Cannes (people assure me this is a big deal). I personally think his film ‘The Adventures of Iron Pussy’ should win a new award at the Oscars for Best Title every year in perpetuity.

I met him for these photos in 2010, and as usual my approach to photographing him consisted of trying to copy Dan Winters and failing miserably. I guess that should be my explanation anytime someone asks me what my personal photographic style is. Enough said there. What was nice though was hearing about his experiences firsthand and actually being in the presence of a true auteur whose achievements are worthy and whose artistic values I subscribe to. I should consider myself lucky when the biggest dilemma of my day is whether or not to put on pants – Joe is probably busy getting the Thai censorship board off his back so he can show his internationally acclaimed work inside his own country. The shoot itself was short – maybe only 10 minutes or so (I sat through the interview as well), but I definitely got the impression that this is the kind of artist I want to emulate; dignified, self-possessed and confident, with an unshakeable belief in the worth of his own work. My work often allows me to meet a lot of dedicated, intelligent people like Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and through these encounters I can recalibrate my own internal compass to make sure I am always headed in the direction I want to go as an artist.

Gotta go now I smell my poptarts burning and I need to get back to League of Legends otherwise I’ll get banned from the server.

Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong - apichatpong weerasethakul (3)

Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong - apichatpong weerasethakul (4)Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong - apichatpong weerasethakul (1)

Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong - apichatpong weerasethakul (5)

Recent Portraits: Yoshiyuki Sankai of Cyberdyne Inc.

I think I was about 8 when I watched James Cameron’s fantastic documentary Terminator 2: Judgment Day for the first time, and by golly that film scared the bejeezus out of me. Something about that scene where Linda Hamilton gets nuked, has her skin burned off and is turned into a skeleton in her nightmare really caused me to crap my pants. Also, the bit where the T-1000 stabs that carton of milk was particularly upsetting to me, for some reason.

But the scene that really lodged itself into 8 year old self’s head was the death scene of token black character Miles Dyson, Cyberdyne employee and inventor of the microchip technology that would eventually lead to the self-aware computer called Skynet and all the nuclear shenanigans that entailed. In this scene Dyson, in keeping with the fine tradition of all token black characters in cinema history, has been shot and left for dead by all the white characters who have vacated the area quicker than a train carriage emptying out after a particularly bad fart. Poor Dyson, wounded and unable to move, is left holding up a weight over the triggering device that will blow up Cyberdyne and end the threat of Skynet forever. As his breath fades away, we are confronted with the terrible tragedy of man’s eternal struggle with the relentless nature of time and creeping death, bearing the weight of sacrifice for as long as possible before the reaper claims you for the last. Dyson is willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good but he continues to hold aloft that weight until his final gasp, because racked with pain and exhaustion though he is, he now realizes how sweet and precious each moment of life he struggles through is.

And when the end finally comes for Dyson in the form of fire, explosions and the utter destruction of Cyberdyne, we are left with a feeling of sadness at his death, and yet that sadness is tempered by the knowledge that in the end his life and death had meaning and consequence. As a frightened 8 year old, this scene really made me stop and reconsider my outlook on life. We should all try to be a bit more like Dyson.

How unsettling then, 24 years later, when I received an email from Forbes Asia asking me to photograph the founder of Cyberdyne Industries. I had been under the impression that, similar to my urine-soaked nightmares of the T-1000, that the ghost of Cyberdyne was well and truly behind me! Obviously not, as it appeared that Cyberdyne Industries not only still existed, but had its HQ on the outskirts of Tokyo, and no one seemed to think this was a big deal!

Now, I wasn’t sure which I found more worrying – the fact that I was originally told that I had only 5 minutes to shoot a cover and inside shots, or that the threat of invincible robot hunter-killer machines and a nuclear winter still hung over the human race. Both issues are certainly cause for concern however my approach to tackling multiple problems dictates that I should start with the more achievable one, which is why I emailed the press lady asking if it was at all possible to extend my 5 minutes to 10. Yes, I know that the possible threat of genocide and human extinction via autonomous machines definitely seems like the more pressing issue but I’m just an editorial photographer, what do you expect me to do?

Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong - Cyberdyne, Yoshiyuki Sankai (10)

Anyway, while I waited for the lady to get back to me I began to do some research on Cyberdyne, even though I knew what I was going to find: death, destruction, and men made of liquid metal. Contrary to my expectations however, they were manufacturing robotic exoskeletons which can sense the intentions of the user through nerve impulses detected through the suit’s sensors, and assists them with a carefully applied amount of force that helps them ‘exert more motor energy than usual’. This revelation was surprising to me, because the Cyberdyne I thought I knew did not specialize in exoskeletons, but rather ‘living tissue over metal endoskeleton’.

Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong - Cyberdyne, Yoshiyuki Sankai (1)

My unease returned though when I noticed the name they had given their flagship revolutionary exoskeleton model: HAL. If not before, alarms bells were certainly going off inside my head now! The company responsible for the nuclear annihilation of Judgment Day, teaming up with the malevolent, murdering AI from the spaceship Discovery One? At this point I had forgotten all about the extremely brief 5 minutes I had been allotted to photograph Mr. Sankai, the visionary behind this new Cyberdyne. I would have been happy with 15 seconds if it meant I could walk out of there without HAL locking me out of the pod-bay doors to die alone and hopeless in the vacuum of space.

Eventually though the press lady got back to me and very nicely told me I could have 10 minutes, and so resigned to my fate I packed my gear and drove to Cyberdyne HQ where I met Mr. Yoshiyuki Sankai, the founder. And let me tell you right now that he is genuinely just a really, really nice man. I mean, the whole thing about building an army of robots in secret that will eventually gain sentience and wipe out the human race notwithstanding, I really warmed to Mr. Sankai. I could sense he really cared about his work and what the important innovations it is making in the field of robotics and the eventual subjugation of humanity. Sometimes you can get so caught up in a company’s image that you forget that behind the facade there are real, honest and committed people working towards their vision of a better future, or, in this case, apocalypse.

Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong - Cyberdyne, Yoshiyuki Sankai (6)

Anyway, my allotted 10 minutes turned into 20 minutes as Mr. Sankai was very generous with his time and seemed very amenable to all of the ideas that I wanted to try (even in the face of metallic doom I can’t help but get enthusiastic if I think I’m onto something good). Everything worked out great – I was really happy with the photos and Mr. Sankai was gracious and patient right up until he had to leave to have a meeting with the Minister of Technology, where I’m sure they bargained over the fate of mankind. The only real negative was that I was bumped from the cover by the Singaporean Lee Kwan Yew dude who died that month, but hey, considering that I managed to walk away from a shoot at Cyberdyne without getting Terminated, I consider myself pretty lucky already.

Well anyway, thanks for reading another overly lengthy blog post in which absolutely nothing of worth to the photographic community is discussed. I hope you enjoyed it, and please stay tuned for the next post about a shocking story in which an analog film hipster gains sentience. Bye!

PS: Just in case you didn’t get the joke (and to be honest, I can hardly blame you), Cyberdyme does not actually make killer death robots. They are a wonderful company at the forefront of ‘cybernics’, as it’s called on their homepage, which is about using robotics to help make people’s lives better. Their exoskeletons have numerous applications in the physical rehabilitation of stroke victims or the partially paralyzed. They are an awesome company!

Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong - Cyberdyne, Yoshiyuki Sankai (4)Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong - Cyberdyne, Yoshiyuki Sankai (7)