All posts filed under: Tokyo

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 – 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 …

GAIJIN – Brett Bull AKA Tokyo Reporter

Welcome to my new personal project under the working title ‘GAIJIN’ (外人), which is a word that means ‘foreigner’ in Japanese. Directly translated from the Chinese characters, it means ‘person from outside’, which is the general blanket term anyone here uses to describe a person – white, black, hispanic or asian – not native to Japan.  Gaijin aren’t especially new to this country, nor are they particularly rare in this day and age, especially in Tokyo. They are tolerated, treated respectfully and fairly on the whole, and every now and then are recognised for examples of greatness. To their credit, most gaijin here behave themselves and have given Japanese people no overt reason to fear or hate them. They are however, still treading the fine line between acceptance and being fully embraced as part of the community. Granted, this takes time, as in most communities around the globe, but Japan more than most has been slower to embrace the potential for raw ideas and energy that foreign hearts and hands can bring into a country. …

Shooting portraits of Japan rock legend, Yazawa Eikichi

Several months ago I had the rare and unexpected privilege of photographing one of Japan’s most recognisable icons – certainly its most famous musician, Yazawa Eikichi. Just to give you non-Japanese guys an idea, he’s a bit like Bruce Springsteen  in that he’s been around for decades, is old-school yet constantly active and has a major (seriously, major) following both young and old. Certainly someone that you don’t get access to all the time. So anyway the brief for this particular shoot was to get three different shots in an HMV record store, one for a double spread with room for text, one for the cover and a headshot for inside. I guess I don’t really need to mention that the allotted time for a celebrity of this guy’s stature that the allotted time was 10 minutes. This kind of thing is par for the course on shoots like this, so it’s really up to you to figure out how best to allocate your time so everything runs smoothly. First things first in this process, …

Elsevier – CEOs at lunch

Dutch magazine Elsevier does a regular piece called ‘CEOs at lunch’, which consists of a lunch interview and a photoshoot, and they asked me to shoot one of them earlier this year.  The venue was Ukaitei near Tokyo tower – incidentally, a venue where I photographed part of a wedding last year. More photos to come soon!      

Bad Girls

Don’t be trying to sweet-talk these two – all they are interested in is stolen champagne, suitcases full of money and fast living. You’ll never pin them down, you’ll never catch them napping; try to move in on them and all you’ll find in their wake is the dust settling, blood-stained bills littering the ground and quite a few broken hearts. They are…Cashed-up and Dangerous. Such was the theme of a little photo shoot that I did way back earlier this year. This is another photoshoot in my loose series exploring common motifs in cinema. The other ones I’ve done are here and here. We all had a blast shooting it, tell if you think I managed to make it work!    

HAVING FUN YET?

Ok, I realize that I have been remiss in uploading any editorial / personal work recently. THAT WILL CHANGE. HERE ARE SOME PHOTOS. This is just a small thing I did with some very awesome friends of mine, in between jobs. I wanted to put together some kind of narrative behind it all but we kinda ran out of time, what with a typhoon approaching Tokyo and all that (ever tried holding onto the Photek softlighter during a typhoon?). Either way we survived with only a few dozen mosquito bites, but I think the photos were definitely worth the time spent. As for gear, used the trusty Einstein / Vagabond combination (I never go anywhere without them) in combination with my favorite cheap light modifiers – the aforementioned Softlighter, and Apollo softbox. Thanks to Hamish for bringing the awesome cameras – Adriana has got the Mamiya TLR (forgot what it’s actually called) and Anna has her hands wrapped around a beautiful Hasselblad 501CM. Although I didn’t really succeed in my goal of creating a mini …