All posts filed under: Portrait

Japanese Crafts: Ozeki Lantern in Gifu

Late last year I had the opportunity to travel to Gifu, Japan to photograph the superb craftsmen at the Ozeki lantern workshop. Not many people know this but during the Shogunate Gifu was a cultural and economical hub due to a combination of geography and high quality natural resources. Gifu is surprisingly famous for a large number of core crafts, including smithing, washi (paper) production, bamboo crafts and the like – and as a result a great deal of higher level crafts flourished in the city as well – such as lanterns, which used a combination of the high quality materials produced in the area. . For the most part, the lanterns made at Ozeki are decorative interior lanterns – different to the ones I photographed in Kyoto, which were mainly for outdoor use (a blog post for another time!). For this purpose, the lanterns needed to be compact and aesthetically pleasing, requiring a much more delicate approach and also an artistic design sensibility. The bamboo ribs are far more delicate and closer spaced than …

Tokyo Portraits: Maezawa Yusaku again

Ever since I photographed portraits of Tokyo billionaire Maezawa Yusaku 2 years ago for his record breaking purchase of a Basquiat, he’s had a hard time staying out of local and international news as an example of an unconventional CEO. Most recently he took to Twitter and told all and sundry that he would give 100 random retweeters one million yen (equivalent to about 10,000 US) each – prompting it to become the most retweeted tweet in history, predictably. Just like anything popular on the Internet it sparked a bit of backlash, with some commentators saying he was only doing it for attention and to lord his cash over everyone, however his response was pretty notable – ‘I didn’t make all this money by myself, rather I did it with the help of a lot of people. So rather than hoarding the money for myself I thought it would be good to spread it around and put it back into the economy’ These portraits were from the third sitting I’ve had with him – he …

J-Rock Band Uverworld for Rockin’ On Japan

Late last year Tokyo based magazine Rockin’ On tapped me to photograph J-rock phenomenon Uverworld for an 8 page spread about their new album. We were to have an hour to fill those pages with some kind of shots, so we looked around Tokyo’s trendiest neighborhood Daikanyama for a good pot we could use. Luckily there was a nice photogenic abandoned lot right by their studio which we could use with impunity. Side note: it doesn’t matter who you’re photographing in Tokyo, if you choose your spot unwisely, some rentacop with no real authority will come up to you and tell you that you can’t shoot there. Anyway the guys were really nice, even being fine with me blanking on their names halfway through (6 new names all at one time is a LOT for me), and the lead singer Takuya seemed quite interested in me, grilling me with questions about my home country Australia while we were taking photos. Hope you enjoy the photos!

Tokyo Portraits: Kengo Kuma, again

Recently I was asked to photograph a portrait of renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma for the third time, and it was to be at his office in Gaienmae again too. I definitely wanted to try something different to the first two times I had photographed him, and also wanted to have him pictured with bamboo, which is a medium he draws a lot of inspiration from. We shot at a bamboo grove at a shrine across the road from his office (which he helped design, incidentally), and he was a wonderful subject as always, barely batting an eyelid when I asked him to pop his head in between the two stalks of bamboo. Kengo Kuma is the man behind the design of the 2020 Olympic Stadium currently being built in Gaien. Hope I get to sit in it in 2020!

Hyundai/Genesis Design Center in Korea

Being a photographer in Tokyo is enough of a treat by itself, but sometimes I am privileged to go to other countries to take photos. This particular time I was sent to Hyundai/Genesis’s research and development lab in Korea. I had never been to Korea before so it was very refreshing navigating in a country where language was once again a barrier. The lab was about 90 minutes out from Seoul but I managed to get there without issues, and on time too! Once there I was treated with great hospitality and the design directors SangYup Lee and Luc Donkerwolke were very generous with their time. It was all in all a very tiring day as I flew over without an assistant, but after I got back to my hotel in Seoul, I had randomly stumbled across some of the best fried chicken I’d ever had in my life. So needless to say I’m very keen to go back to Korea and explore more! Enjoy the photos!  

The Shikoku Files – Candles from Uchiko – the Best in The World???

Further up the coast of Ehime, there is an old town with a wonderful set of meandering old roads and historic buildings called Uchiko. Uchiko by itself is one of those little country Japanese towns that is insanely Instagrammable – it’s charming, old and clean, dotted with trendy shops, cafes and hostels – just right for a stroll in a kimono. The highlight of the town however, is the old candle industry here that is originally what put Uchiko on the map in the first place. In the olden days, candles were made out of beeswax or paraffin; materials which when burnt produced a lot of smoke and unpleasant odor. The people of Uchiko however, discovered a way to make candle wax out of the haze tree, which is a very labor intensive process however the result is a pristine white candle that when burnt produces a pure bright flame with no smoke or odor. These candles were exhibited at the Paris expo in 1900 (or thereabouts, I actually can’t remember) and instantly became a smash …

Tokyo Portraits: Kazuo Ishigame for Forbes

Thankfully, there will always be a demand for executive portraits in Tokyo. This time around I was very fortunate to be asked to photograph the Japanese entrant in the Forbes 30 under 30 list in Enterprise Technology. Kazuo Ishigame runs Infostellar, a cloud based service which allows antennae operators to rent out their antennas between the long downtimes that they are waiting to be in contact with satellites flying overhead. Yeah, it’s pretty complicated. When I was asked to do this shoot, trying to encapsulate Mr. Ishigame’s job description into a single frame became an extremely difficult task the more I thought about it. Computers, satellites, renting antennae? Photographing CEOs of tech companies with intangible services is definitely the challenge facing this generation of portrait photographers. I ended up going with an idea that I had used in an unpublished test shoot from some years ago; my assistant and I strung up a large amount of cotton against a sky-blue background and lit it to look like clouds. Then I glued together a cheap plastic …

Japanese Masters: The Blacksmiths of Sakai

Although I am primarily a photographer based in Tokyo, you’ll often find me traveling to random cities and towns to find artisans and craftsmen to photograph as part of my ongoing personal project to document as many as possible. Here is one of many that I have met along the way! The Knives of Sakai from Irwin Wong | Photographer on Vimeo. The city of Sakai is a mere thirty minute drive from the neon-soaked streets of central Osaka – so close in fact that it feels like I never left. Still, the streets of Sakai are markedly different from the gaudy and brazen Osaka fare – there are fewer shops and zero tourists. A light rail trundles through the main thoroughfare. I notice other things as I drive towards my destination: a high frequency of workshops that advertise some kind of metal-working trade – polishing, smithing or sharpening. A high percentage of the shops are shuttered, their buildings too aged and run down to be operational. There are a few still open. I pull …

Japanese Masters: The Last Maiko in Gifu

Although I am primarily a photographer based in Tokyo, you’ll often find me traveling to random cities and towns to find artisans and craftsmen to photograph as part of my ongoing personal project to document as many as possible. Since the beginning of 2017, Zeiss has partnered with me to produce a series of videos, photos and text for their newly updated Lenspire blog. Now with this year coming to a close, I’ve decided to post the start of the series on my blog to show you folks where it all started. Please visit the original piece here where there are many more links to nearly a whole year’s worth of master artisans. Anyway, here’s the article below, enjoy! The Last Maiko in Gifu from Irwin Wong | Photographer on Vimeo. It’s twilight in Gifu, and the lights of the city sparkle prettily on the Nagara River. My assistant Will and I are standing on the bridge closest to where the boats dock, and as we watch, several pleasure boats peel lazily away from the harbor and …

Tokyo Portraits – Yuusaku Maezawa for Wall Street Journal

Being an English and Japanese speaking photographer based in Tokyo, I’m lucky enough to be able to get editorial jobs that require someone who can operate without a costly translator. However, when I get the opportunity to photograph the same person multiple times in the same year for various outlets, I definitely know I have found my place in the market. The person in question is Zozotown CEO Yuusaku Maezawa, an avid art collector who was definitely the man of the hour having purchased a Basquiat for a record sum at auction last year. I had photographed him earlier in the year for Forbes and now the wonderful people at the Wall Street Journal gave me another opportunity to photograph him, this time at his luxurious apartment in the heart of Tokyo. Mr. Maezawa certainly remembered me from our last encounter and this shoot was much more relaxed and fun than the other one, due to our familiarity. With so much expensive artworks lying around I was a little nervous about bumping into anything, but …