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. Call it what you will, but I believe that now more than ever, with the information age making everything so much more accessible and the growing competitiveness from surrounding Asian countries, that the future of Japan’s foundering industries will hinge heavily on how much it allows itself to be helped by the influx of ‘gaijin’. I believe that Gaijin hold the key to the future of Japan.
Anyway, now that I’ve got that pretty much out of the way, this is kind of a portrait series that I’ve been working on veeeeeery slowly, that focuses on gaijin living in Japan, that are accomplishing things that aren’t necessarily ‘normal’. In other words, people who are bringing something a little bit different to the mould that we foreigners are usually lumped into. It would be cool to kind of develop a bit of a cross-section of the innovative, interesting things we foreigners are getting up to.
This is Brett Bull, AKA the Tokyo Reporter. In addition to his full time engineering job, he manages the popular English-language Japan news website www.tokyoreporter.com, as well as providing freelance journalism, interviewing and fixing services. I wonder where he manages to find the time. His website provides original journalism, along with English translations of articles from Japanese weeklies tabloids under fair use, which provides us all a look into the prurient, sex-obsessed land of the typical salaryman rag. It’s an interesting read, and you’ll find some of the translated articles quite disturbing and not available in other mainstream international media. Follow his extremely popular twitter account here: @tokyoreporter.
How I made this shot:
I didn’t plan for it to be rainy on this day, but it ended up working in my favor for the noir-ish type of image that I had in mind for this shot. As for lighting: the phonebooth being the centrepiece for the photo, I wanted to keep the feel and color of the ambient fluorescent lighting without contaminating it with light from my main light. In order to keep my light on Brett only, I used a Profoto D1 and a gridded stripbox, just out of sight to camera right. The other two lights are in more of a supporting role, but no less vital in providing scene lighting, filling in the large expanse of shadow in the left half of the frame. The first one is a Nikon SB-80DX with a red cinema gel tucked away by the parking garage there (you can see the flash), whose role was to accentuate the color of the traffic-light reflecting off the wet streets. The third light is behind the phoneboth, and it’s a green gelled SB-900 pointing back at the building on the left-hand side. This was done to retain the whole fluorescent street-lighting color theme consistent throughout the frame. Another happy side effect is that it illuminated some of the raindrops on the side of the phonebooth, accentuating the rainy, wet and miserable feeling that we had going.
I have a few more gaijin I’d like to introduce to you, but I’d really like to see how far I can pursue this small project, so if anyone in Japan knows someone who should be photographed, or think they would make a suitable subject themselves, then give me a shout at email@example.com or at my twitter account @irwinwong!