All posts filed under: Photojournalism

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. 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 …

Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (33)

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

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 …

Printing Dat Portfolio

I’d like to introduce my portfolio – I’m super proud of it and yet it’s still nowhere near where I’d like to be, but it’s exciting to have it up regardless. At the risk of repeating every other photographer on the Internet, print portfolios are super important and here’s why: 1. It shows that your work looks good on paper (that is, if your work looks good to begin with) 2. It makes you feel good to have one. 3. You don’t look like a doofus walking into a meeting with nothing but an iPad, or worse, a laptop. I bet some of you bristled when I mentioned that last point right? Don’t delude yourself into thinking an iPad is a worthy substitute for a book. YOU NEED A BOOK. The very fact that the word ‘substitute’ is part of the equation means that you’re compromising, and you should never compromise when it comes to showing your work off to people who you want to get money from. And let’s face it, if you’re putting your effort into …

Career milestones as a photographer

So, recently I felt like I had hit some kind of milestone in my photography career, so I’m going to talk about that a little bit. It wasn’t my first one, and I’m really hoping that it won’t be my last one, but somehow this one was important to me. Late last year Japanese magazine and newsstand fixture AERA let me shoot one of their longest running regular articles called ‘Gendai no Shouzou’ (現代の肖像 translated: Portrait of the Times) – which basically is an in-depth profile on someone prominent in Japan at that moment. Usually it takes a few months to shoot and write the story, which means hanging out with the subject a lot and finding a good way to shoot some kind of iconic portrait. I’ve shot regularly for AERA for a while now, but this was kind of the first time I really felt I’d had real trust invested in me. Like I’d made it to the next level in a video game suddenly. The milestone for me was not being able …

Nintendo’s Miyamoto Shigeru – It’s on like Donkey Kong (Literally)

In the lead up to the release of the Wii U console recently, I photographed Nintendo’s creative brain and main game designer, Miyamoto Shigeru. This man is credited with creating some of video gaming’s most famous franchises, including Mario, Donkey Kong and Zelda, to name a few; he is an elder-statesman, a legend of the nerd world and being a massive nerd myself, I was literally over the moon at the prospect of meeting him and photographing him (I think Zelda: A Link To The Past for the SNES is one of the greatest video games ever made). Better still, the photoshoot would be at Nintendo Headquarters in Kyoto, so I would get a bit of travel in to boot. In addition to all of that, we got to play the at-the-time unreleased new console, the Wii-U, with Miyamoto-san giving us the lowdown on all of the new features and specs while trying to knock us into bottomless pits. All in all, one of those awesome jobs that makes me glad I’m a photographer. I …

GAIJIN – Scott T. Hards: CEO, HobbyLink Japan

Here’s another notable gaijin: meet Scott T. Hards, the founder and CEO of HobbyLink Japan, the country’s biggest exporter of Japanese hobby-related goods. Back when I was a young nerdy lad living in Australia, I really wish there had been a site like this where I could get my hands on the latest Gundam model kits (not that I could afford it). As it was, back in the 1990s Japanese anime-related goods were extremely hard to come by and where available they were at extremely inflated prices. Scott originally came to Japan as a banker, and like many of us, just ended up staying. He eventually went into the business of exporting, starting out in a small apartment in Tokyo, and over the years his business has grown to the point where it operates out of a gigantic UFO-shaped warehouse in Sano, Tochigi, and employs several dozen people, both local and international. HobbyLink Japan exports to all countries, satisfying the otaku needs of nerds everywhere around the globe. How I shot this photo: This is …

Mukojima, the Tokyo geisha town

Somewhere in the middle of Tokyo’s older quarter, near Asakusa but slightly too far from a subway station to make it easy to access, is the quiet district of Mukojima. Hidden in the nondescript grey and brown buildings are the homes, restaurants, and training houses for Tokyo’s geisha. Here it is not uncommon to see a fully garbed geisha or maiko quietly having coffee in the homely kissaten (cafes), or crossing the street to go from one interminable location to another – a sight that is typically thought to exist only in Kyoto. It’s an undiscovered part of Tokyo that has quietly come along through the ages without invasion from the eyes of tourists. Here’s a few photos from a story I shot around the area, some of them are from the street, others are portraits of some of the subjects interviewed for the article. Hope you enjoy them!        

The Captain

This is Captain Toyohiko Tomioka, the captain of the Tokyo Fire Department’s Hyper Rescue Squad, which is the most elite emergency response squad in the country. Considering these guys have to be in a state of constant readiness due to the fact that a devastating earthquake could strike Tokyo at anytime, Tomioka’s men are certainly the best of the best. Their headquarters are in Tokyo but they are on call to respond to any crisis that requires their expertise around the entire nation. March 11, 2011 – Japan gets hit by the triple body blow of a magnitude 9+ earthquake, devastating tsunami and a nuclear disaster. If ever there was a need for these guys it was right then. Tomioka and his squad are the first on the scene at the stricken Fukushima No.1 nuclear plant, which had reported problems with shutting down and was now experiencing overheating. Everyone knew the situation was bad, but at that time no one knew exactly how bad. Tomioka’s team undertook the dangerous job of pouring seawater into the …

New Years Resolutions

Hey guys, just wanted to share a small side project that I did over the new year’s break with you. Kind of wanted to do something that involved new years some how so I went out on the cold winter streets with a clipboard, a brush and some paper and asked people to write a single kanji that signified their hopes and dreams for the year of the dragon. Lots of people refused, but some were quite obliging, and I have to hand it to Ikuo and Kiko, who after writing their own kanji helped me flag down other people. If you live in Japan you’ll be well familiar with kanji but for those who have no idea, kanji is the pictograph-style writing system that is used in Japan and wider parts of Asia. The great thing about kanji is that while each single character can have several different meanings, the overall ‘feel’ of the character can be understood very easily. Thus, a writing a single character doesn’t simply mean one thing – the viewer …