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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. …

Restored Nissan GTR

Sometimes I get to shoot some really cool stuff. Like this restored vintage Nissan Skyline GTR for Motorhead magazine, the ‘World’s Greatest Custom Culture Magazine’. I do a surprising amount of work for car magazines – including this piece here for Top Gear magazine. The man in the below photo is Sato-san, the owner of the garage and the one who painstakingly and lovingly has refurbished this extremely old car. Very interesting stuff, always a good lighting challenge and obviously very fun to hang out with people in different fields who are also passionate about their craft. Shooting for car magazines is also a great exercise in discipline for me;  I need to constantly remind myself to keep the car as the center of attention, since my instinct as a portrait photographer is always to focus on the person. Got some really cool stuff coming up soon – I’ve been busy shooting and have a whole grab bag of portraits of cool people waiting to be posted. More later!    

The NOA – motivated lighting on location

Another post in my series about motivated lighting in cool locations – this time I went out to the surfer’s locale Shonan to photograph a story about the NOA, which is a cool invention that could possibly save your life in the case of a deadly tsunami. It’s basically a fiberglass, watertight shelter that sits in your home, which serves as a backup refuge in case you don’t have time to reach high ground. They’re made to float and are painted yellow to be highly visible even amidst piles of debris, so you can be quickly recovered by rescue teams in the aftermath of a disaster.  3/11/11 was a brutal reminder to the Japanese that the forces of nature that created their homeland are also just as capable of destruction, so there’s a lot of renewed interest in inventions like these. In the case of the NOA, it may help save the lives of the elderly or people who otherwise might not have time to reach the high ground in the case of a tsunami. The …

Noh Masks

I can’t remember whether I posted these before, but I found these photos kind of hibernating on my hard drive, and thought I might put them up for the world to see. A year or so ago I did a shoot with friend and model Yamaguchi Akiko based on the theme of the Japanese art of Noh. Noh is a very restrained form of theater; it’s extremely strict and very centered on tradition, with next to no room for introducing modern theater elements. Watching it, one would be forgiven for thinking that nothing much was happening – it does indeed appear to move at glacial speed.  An entire play can pass with you being mystified as to what happened, so it’s definitely seen as a kind of entertainment primarily enjoyed by the elderly population. Anyway, one major element of Noh theater is the masks that the main actors use to portray the character they’re playing. The crafting of these masks is an art and each one is skillfully designed to change expression with each subtle …

The Captain

This is Captain Toyohiko Tomioka, the captain of the Tokyo Fire Department’s Hyper Rescue Squad, which is the most elite emergency response squad in the country. Considering these guys have to be in a state of constant readiness due to the fact that a devastating earthquake could strike Tokyo at anytime, Tomioka’s men are certainly the best of the best. Their headquarters are in Tokyo but they are on call to respond to any crisis that requires their expertise around the entire nation. March 11, 2011 – Japan gets hit by the triple body blow of a magnitude 9+ earthquake, devastating tsunami and a nuclear disaster. If ever there was a need for these guys it was right then. Tomioka and his squad are the first on the scene at the stricken Fukushima No.1 nuclear plant, which had reported problems with shutting down and was now experiencing overheating. Everyone knew the situation was bad, but at that time no one knew exactly how bad. Tomioka’s team undertook the dangerous job of pouring seawater into the …

New Years Resolutions

Hey guys, just wanted to share a small side project that I did over the new year’s break with you. Kind of wanted to do something that involved new years some how so I went out on the cold winter streets with a clipboard, a brush and some paper and asked people to write a single kanji that signified their hopes and dreams for the year of the dragon. Lots of people refused, but some were quite obliging, and I have to hand it to Ikuo and Kiko, who after writing their own kanji helped me flag down other people. If you live in Japan you’ll be well familiar with kanji but for those who have no idea, kanji is the pictograph-style writing system that is used in Japan and wider parts of Asia. The great thing about kanji is that while each single character can have several different meanings, the overall ‘feel’ of the character can be understood very easily. Thus, a writing a single character doesn’t simply mean one thing – the viewer …

Photobooks

Photobook manufacturers Memomiio recently contacted me to make several books for their showcase.  Seeing as I’d just finished shooting a wedding for a couple in Melbourne I decided to make two types of books; a wedding photo book for that side of my business, and a portrait portfolio for the editorial/commercial side of my business. Here’s the finished product for the wedding album, and I have to say I’m really impressed with the binding and print quality.  The best parts are the thick photo-board style pages and the lay-flat binding which makes designing two page spreads really satisfying. The one pictured below is 40x30cm and super heavy (about 3kgs). Gotta say I’m loving the quality though. Which brings me to a fairly cool announcement – the first 10 couples who hire me for engagement/wedding photography get 25% off any album they order, which, I have to say, is huge. They start at around 30,000 for the 20 page 40x30cm book (the one pictured below is 40 pages). So if you’re getting married anytime soon in …