All posts filed under: Portrait

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 …

Portraits from the Archives: Toyo Ito

Never let it be said that I am not an unstoppable content producing machine. I churn out photos like my camera has some form of irritable bowel syndrome, which in itself is a great metaphor for most of my photos. The thing I tend to forget about is the part where I put them up somewhere to be seen; namely on this blog. If anyone’s counting (and I doubt anyone is), you’ll find that I wrote a grand total of 4 blog posts last year, averaging one every three months which equates to typing roughly one word every 6 hours. A pretty gruelling schedule you might say and I say yes, by the time I got to typing my typing fingers had all been tuckered out by the endless button pushing, dial spinning and head scratching that my job requires of me. Facetiousness aside though, I think we can safely delete the title ‘social media guru’ from my LinkedIn account profile, as last year I probably put as much effort into self promotion as a bodybuilder puts into binge eating. …

NOT a list of 10 things I’ve learnt from shooting 4×5

*Warning: sanctimonious rant ahead* I don’t know what the heck is the deal with people on the Internet these days, but there seems to be an overabundance of ‘wisdom lists’ propagating amongst photography blogs in particular. ’10 things I’ve learnt from street photography’, ‘9 things I’ve learnt from developing film’, ’26 life lessons I’ve learnt from greasing my shutter button’ etc. ad infinitum ad nauseam. People like this kind of thing I guess. Numbers, metrics, concrete results – if you’re shooting photos and spending the nest egg on gear and workshops then I guess being able to quantify your progress into discrete bullet points makes the whole game of photography a little more palatable for the average weekend warrior/aspiring photographer. Also, I hear the list thing is good for search engines, so if increasing that statistic is your focus as a photographer, good luck to you. So, lists. I dislike them for no rational reason and thusly have taken my first good step into crotchety old man territory. Frankly though, if we’re talking about things …

Japanese Celebrities – Dave Specter

Not-so-recently I had the pleasure of photographing Dave Specter -one of the rare but rising number of foreign タレント (or ‘talent’) in Japan. Dave however is a little bit different from all the others – when he got started in the entertainment business 30 years ago he was the only foreigner on Japanese TV on a regular basis. The Japanese ‘talent’ industry is a peculiar one of hierarchies and strict observances of rankings of seniority, and for a non-Japanese to break into that world several decades ago was probably extraordinary. Of course, Dave’s Japanese is impeccable – beyond the level even of the average Japanese person – but Dave puts it down to ‘being in the right place at the right time’. Back in the 1980s there were few foreigners in Japan and even fewer actively working in the media with fluent Japanese. Dave Specter quickly became the go-to guy for non-domestic related news and has been around ever since. So not only is he the elder statesman for all foreign talent all TV today (after all, …

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 …

What to say when photographing people

Here’s something that I’ve never really thought about all that much – what exactly do I say to people during a photoshoot?  More importantly, what’s the right thing to say? I shoot photos of people for a living and I think I am confident in winning the trust of my subjects, but to this day I’ve never really sat down and tried to break down my process for approaching my subjects and – essentially – getting them to do what I want before my time is up. So let’s begin at the start of this whole process – I’ve arrived (hopefully) early at the location, and set up my gear.  Next is usually the painfully long wait for the subject to arrive/get interviewed/finish getting ready, in which every possible excruciating thought passes through your mind: ‘what if he/she is in a bad mood?’ ‘what if the lighting I’ve set up doesn’t work for them?’ ‘what if they take a look at the setup and don’t like it?’ ‘is there a better spot I could have …

Spruce up your office (portraits)

So. A lot of my work somehow ends up being done in offices in Tokyo. I’ve shot all sorts of people in boardrooms, office lobbies, corridors, etc, because let’s face it, most of Tokyo where the business goes down is just one gigantic office, split up into millions of tinier sections.  And let’s also face it; a lot of those offices are pretty careworn, drab places. Now, I’m a little bit ADHD in the fact that I get bored if I always shoot the same type of portrait in essentially the same type of environment. It’s safe, sure, but I need some more cowbell in order to feel like I’m really earning my pay . Consider the shot below of Dr. Thomas Kaberger, executive board chairman of the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation for Recharge Magazine.  I had to settle for a boardroom photo (taking him outside to do the portraits would have added very little thematic value to the shot), but I also wanted to make it contextual somehow – suitable for an editorial portrait …

GAIJIN – Bellamy Hunt

Here is another addition to my Gaijin project, which involves photographing foreigners living in Japan who have somehow managed to forge their own path living here in this often bizarre country – and have done it in an interesting fashion. There are many types of foreigners in Japan, with just as many grey areas in between – for example there are many expats and their families who get sent to work at the Tokyo branch of their big foreign company; there are people who have a Japanese spouse and have decided to make their life here, and then there are gaijin – like me – who originally came to Japan thinking that they’d only stay long enough to get up to some adventure and mischief, but ended up falling in love with this country and never left. It’s stories of these gaijin that particularly interest me – seeing as I am one of them – because I like to hear about the journey they took from their first job in Japan (often as an English …

GAIJIN: Hugh Ashton, Writer

Here is another addition to my side project of Gaijinwho do interesting things around and about Tokyo (click image for larger version).  This time I’ve photographed freelance writer and novelist Hugh Ashton, whose been living in Japan for nearly a quarter of a century out in Kamakura.  Of the many things he does, one of his most notable recent endeavours is expanding the venerable mythos of Sherlock Holmes and his assistant Watson.  To date he’s written three volumes of Holmes novellas / short stories and 1 full length novel, is a member of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London and enjoys the approval and endorsement of the Conan Doyle Estate (the writer of the original books).  Pretty cool stuff!  Other than that he freelances for various domestic and overseas publications and has a website here where you can check out his books. Many thanks must go to the people of the battleship Mikasa Preservation Society which was where we shot this photo.  She’s an English-built ship from the 1910’s complete with Victorian-style fittings belowdecks, and …