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BOSS Coffee Campaign for ANZ

Late last year I was contacted by Peter Grasse, the man behind Mr Positive, a fantastic production agency helping overseas clients to set up shoots in Japan and Korea. He wanted to know if I was available to do a shoot for the launch of BOSS Coffee in the Australian and New Zealand region. I was of course stoked for the opportunity and said yes straight away. BOSS Coffee is an ubiquitous can coffee brand here in Japan, quite well known for its domestic ad campaigns starring Tommy Lee Jones as an alien (it’s very hard to explain). I’m quite a fan of the BOSS Rainbow Blend if I am on assignment somewhere in the countryside and need a quick sugar and caffeine hit to get my head in the game. Owned by Suntory, BOSS Coffee ventured a new product line into the Australian/NZ market – both very well known for extremely high standards of coffee. The pitch was, BOSS Coffee is the beverage that gets Japanese people through their extremely hectic day. Peter, myself …

Hanafubuki Ryokan for 1843 mag

Hanafubuki Ryokan is a super nice place to stay on the coast of the Izu peninsula. Izu is a beach and mountain paradise for hikers and surfers located about 30 minutes by bullet train west of Tokyo. Take a local train further down the east side of the peninsula for some of the more secluded, premium accommodation options, like Hanafubuki. I photographed this wonderful hot spring hideaway for 1843, the Economist’s lifestyle magazine last year. Hanafubuki is not a single big hotel building, it’s rather a collection of smaller cottages linked together via wooden walkways. Its open air plan and proximity to the forests make it a great place to recharge after a grueling spell in the city. The air is beautiful, crisp and filled only with the sounds of nature, and there are some short forest walks adjoining the property that allows you to do some shinrinyoku, or ‘forest bathing’, which is a fancy way of saying you can sit by yourself in the unspoiled tranquility of nature for a bit. Don’t knock it …

Japanese Handicrafts – Hagoita

A few years ago I photographed Mr Nishiyama, a hagoita artisan in his Tokyo workshop. Nishiyama Kogetsu’s workshop makes hagoita – decorative paddles meant to bring good luck to Japanese households. The workshop is on the second floor of his Tokyo home, where there are two work tables. Nishiyama-san’s father occupied the other one until he passed away – now he continues the tradition alone with no apprentice to take up the workload.  Hagoita are in effect paddles for an ancient game called hanetsuki, which was a very early form of badminton. With a history as far back as the Eikyo era (1429-1441), hanetsuki was enjoyed by members of the Japanese aristocracy as a New Year’s diversion. Shaped like a wooden trapezoid with a handle, there was plenty of space to add decorations, which started out as pictures painted directly onto the wood.  The paddles became more and more complicated as artisans strove to outdo each other, and on entering the Edo period (1603 – 1863), the idea of using fabric collage with cotton padding …

Street Photography For Shiseido

Early last year I was very lucky to do a quick gig with Japanese makeup giant Shiseido for their online global content. The job itself had very little to do with makeup – in fact the shoot was more about capturing the feel of Tokyo’s most upscale neighborhood Ginza. It was an absolute delight to spend a chilly but sunny February afternoon people watching and shooting photos on my Leica, and for a great company no less. Because it was to be used for promotional purposes on the web, the brief stipulated that no faces were to be recognizable, a no easy feat on a crowded Sunday afternoon but a fun limitation to shoot around. Here is the link to the finished article on the web: https://www.shiseido.com.hk/en/CrossingFeature.html I thought I’d post up a selection of my personal favorites photos from the afternoon including ones that weren’t used.

Portraits from Japan – Hikakin

If you live in Japan, there’s a good chance you know about Hikakin. He’s Japan’s #1 Youtuber by a long shot, appealing to younger audiences with his zany humor, personal style and videogame playthroughs. I had the opportunity to photograph his portrait recently for Forbes Japan. It was a quick shoot – maybe only ten minutes or so, but luckily I had the interview to plan my approach and lighting. When he jumped in front of the camera he quickly proved to be personable and cooperative, putting on a show for the camera. The only backdrop available was a green screen in this empty studio in the depths of Mori Tower in Roppongi. I felt the green screen worked thematically to show the somewhat manufactured nature of most Youtube stars’ lives, so I leaned into the idea and it turned out ok! Thank you Hikakin for being such a great sport!

Japanese Handicrafts – Bunraku Puppets

In my travels across Japan photographing artisans – one of my absolute favorites was the Bunraku puppet artisan Hishida-san in Osaka. I am absolutely gutted that it didn’t make the book so I’d like to introduce him here. Bunraku is a type of theatre in Japan that uses articulated puppets in conjunction with an orchestra and chanters to tell as story. The technical prowess required from the puppeteers is daunting; three puppeteers are responsible for moving one doll; one to control the right hand and head, one to control the left hand and one to control the feet and legs. The makers of these magnificent puppets are called ningyoushi, and are declining in numbers nationwide.  Hishida Masayuki, 58, has been making puppets for Bunraku for over forty years, in the artform’s hometown of Osaka.  ‘Bunraku was a way for people to speak out against the Shogunate without fear of persecution,’ says Hishida-san. Because puppeteers traditionally wore black outfits with black masks, the identities of the troupe were often difficult to divine and thus arrest. Bunraku’s …

Japanese Handicrafts – Kokeshi

In my travels around Japan photographing artisans and craftsmen for my upcoming book, I met Abo-san, a Kokeshi craftsman. His workshop and art was absolutely splendid however we weren’t able to include him in the book for space reasons, so I am going to introduce him here. Kokeshi are a type of decorative wooden doll that is popular in the northern regions of Japan. They served as toys for children hundreds of years ago and now are valued as folk craft items that bring good luck. Although the prefecture of Miyagi is famed for having the highest quality kokeshi, Abo-san is from Aomori, and his dolls have been praised as some of the best in Japan. Watching him work it is very clear that Abo-san is a true master, as he transforms a featureless block of wood into a smooth and shiny kokeshi figure within minutes using a variety of well-worn chisels. The ground is littered with wooden shavings around his feet, which controls the spinning wheel. Painting the doll looks deceptively simple – Abo-san …

Japanese Handicrafts – Kanayama pottery

I have been touring Japan photographing craftspeople and artisans for my upcoming book to be published by Gestalten this year. In total I managed to photograph some 70 artisans, all of them wonderful, however due to space constraints in the book not all of them were able to make it into the final cut. I plan to introduce some of the ones that we unfortunately couldn’t include here, so I hope you’re in the mood to learn about some crafts! Kanayama-yaki, or Kanayama pottery is a very recent type of earthenware in Japan’s very long and rich history of pottery. It was established in the 1960s in Aomori prefecture, the second Northern-most prefecture in Japan, when the clay in a particular marsh near the town of Hirosaki was discovered to be extremely good for pottery. Now, there is a large wood-fired kiln as well as extensive pottery facilities for young artists to come and take advantage of. Foreign potters are often in residence in the huts behind the kiln. There’s even a charming pizzeria for …

Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo (4)

Box People at Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo

I’m primarily a portrait photographer in Tokyo but I’ve been posting a lot of reportage lately, so here’s another one! For photographers in Tokyo, few places beat the amazing hustle and bustle of Tsukiji Fish Market. There’s always such a swirl of activity as the marketplace thunders along plying its trade, and the amount of visual interest surrounding you is close to overwhelming. No matter where you look, there’s always something interesting going on and it’s all authentic. Anyway with Tsukiji now officially closed and moved to a new location. I thought I’d share a fun little side project I did to try and get a fresh perspective on the the old fish market. In Tsukiji like any other market there are countless vendors, and each vendor has a cashier. What’s really interesting about Tsukiji cashiers is that they all sit in these really tiny boxes all morning filled with random paraphernalia accumulated from over the years. I find them really fun and interesting to photograph, so here are some of my favorites. As for gear I shot …

Tokyo Launch of Nike Air Pegasus Zoom for Men’s Health UK

Sometime last year I was invited to photograph the Tokyo launch Nike’s newest training shoe, the Air Pegasus Zoom for Men’s Health UK. I remember owning a pair of Air Pegasus shoes when I was a little kid, thinking they were the coolest things ever; now they’re even more hi tech, made out of the lightest, springiest materials. The next day was a 10k around the Imperial Palace for journalists and bloggers to test out the shoe! Kinda of makes me glad I’m not a fitness/sports journalist because I would 100% keel over after the first 2km and have to be airlifted out, fancy shoes and all. Anyway, enjoy some shots from the event!