All posts filed under: Portrait

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 …

Youtube Superstar: Kurt Hugo Schneider

A while ago I had the opportunity to photograph Youtube musician and producer Kurt Hugo Schneider when he was visiting Tokyo. For those of you who haven’t heard of him (although you probably have), Kurt is possibly what you would call a new media superstar – he’s the king of Youtube music with an incredible 7 million+ followers on his channel, he’s an amazing musician and producer, been on Ellen, Oprah, worked with Aviicii, been featured in WIRED magazine, and that’s not to mention his raw talent and ability to get things done. Did you I mention he’s also a super nice guy on top of all that? Strangely enough, the first time I came across Hugo’s work was not via his wildly successful Youtube channel – in fact it was on a Starcraft II gaming channel called HuskyStarcraft in which he does a parody of Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’ called ‘Banelings’. In case you don’t know what a Baneling is a Zerg unit in Starcraft that sprays acid everywhere after it runs up to you …

Playstation VR Portraits

With Tokyo Game Show coming up this weekend I’d like to introduce some portraits I shot for the wonderful folks at Polygon, one of the world’s top websites dedicated to video game journalism. The article that these photos accompanied was about the long road of development of Playstation VR – the virtual reality headset for – you guessed it – the Playstation soon to be released around the world. The article itself is very in-depth and definitely worth a read; you can check it out on the Polygon website here: http://www.polygon.com/2016/3/9/11174194/the-making-of-playstation-vr. For my part – I was glad to meet Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony Interactive Entertainment (that’s basically responsible for making the Playstations that I have frittered away so many hours of my life on), and although we were required to shoot all of the photos in the Sony Interactive Entertainment offices, I think I managed to get something interesting out of each portrait I made. Here’s Shuhei Yoshida with the headset. And of course we had to photograph him with it on. For those wondering, …

CEO Portraits: Masaaki Kanai of MUJI

Quick post today guys; this one is a portrait of MUJI CEO Masaaki Kanai that I photographed back in 2014. Japan is known as an exporter of many things but Nordic-style furniture is not one of them. That’s where furniture and lifestyle juggernaut MUJI come in – their empire of natural fibers and wood grains has expanded across the globe in an explosive fashion over the last few years. I met Mr. Kanai at the MUJI headquarters in Japan for about twenty minutes and was able to make a variety of portraits before my time was up. On a side note this is the photo shoot that made me decide to give Nikon the boot once and for all – I used my Nikon D4 (quite a high end camera I’d say) and the number of back focused and otherwise unusable shots due to under-performing auto focus made me so fed up that I sold the whole system and bought a into the mirrorless system instead. But that’s a story for another day!