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It’s…THE YEAR OF THE SHEEP!

Happy New Year everyone!

You guys know the drill by now – at the end of each year I shoot a Nengajo (a type of Japanese greeting card for the New Year) of my close friends/team members in the theme of a movie poster, featuring the animal of the year’s Chinese zodiac. You can check out the previous ones here and here. This year it was to be the year of the sheep, so I rounded everyone up, threw them into a car and drove down to a farm outside Tokyo to do the photoshoot.

Well, actually it wasn’t quite so simple as that, as there was a fair bit of work involved in putting together all of the costumes and props, which meant hours trolling websites and vintage clothing stores around about Tokyo in order to find exactly what I wanted. I also needed to find a farm which would grant me permission to use their paddock and sheep as props for a whole afternoon, which meant driving down to several farms to check them out in person. Given that this year’s New Year’s card was loosely based as a Western movie poster I’m sure you can imagine that I had a hard time finding a suitably frontier-like location within a few hour’s drive of Tokyo! Luckily I found a great farm in the end, and the costumes came together pretty great, especially with the help of Yuka (see individual portraits below), who made one of the dresses from scratch!

Also, all of the sheep in the photo are real, live animals and yes, we had a worker from the farm with us the whole time to make sure none of them were harmed during the shoot. Sheep are quite fun to work with – most of them are quite happy to stand where you lead them to, and once you scatter a handful of feed on the ground they will stay there grazing for minutes at a time, allowing plenty of time for photos. It’s probably not a good idea to drop sheep food too close to your gear though, as I found out when one of the sheep almost bulldozed over my tripod and Hasselblad in its single-mindedness to get to the food!

Anyway it was fun times for everyone involved, and I’m so very grateful to have such talented friends who will give up an entire day to go along with my ridiculous ideas. As always with each year I’ve been blessed to have the support and help who I genuine respect and enjoy working with, and this is definitely one of the best parts of my job.

Please check out the BTS video below, as well as the actual poster and individual portraits of the people who helped me put this thing together. I’m looking forward to reaching even greater heights in the year of the sheep!


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Me: Yes, this is me; Irwin Wong, Tokyo photographer. Nothing special here, let’s just move on.

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Asuka: This is my wife! I can’t find the words to describe the patience and support she has shown me this year. She makes me always want to be the best person I can be, and that’s why I love her. Also, the incredible dress and corset she is wearing was made by the incredibly talented Yuka, who was another one of our team members for this photoshoot. Her profile is below somewhere.

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Maiko: This is Maiko’s third appearance in one of my nengajo, and her skill as a makeup artist has only gotten better since I’ve known her! She’s a capable, calming presence on set whom I have learned to thoroughly trust over the years. The lamb she is holding was really docile for most of the shoot but here I managed to catch it during one of its rare bleating session.

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John: As well as shooting most of the video for the behind the scenes clip, John is an awesome friend who often has to put up with me swinging by the craft beer bar he manages just to sound some ideas off him. Also, just like me he’s a big nerd with an appreciation of all things fine: beer, movies, videogames, cats, etc. Can’t wait to see what shenanigans we’ll get up to this year!

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Hamish: Making his first appearance in my nengajo, Hamish used to help me out on the occasional photoshoot but now is a talented landscape/documentary photographer in his own right. Also, he has an awesome duderanch in Tokyo with about every gaming console under the sun, so I often find excuses to go around to hang out.

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Yuka: I only met Yuka recently, but I count myself incredibly fortunate to be able to work with her. She’s a clothing stylist who specializes in repurposing old kimonos and turning them into awesome garments for rock bands, models and actors to wear. An example of such a garment is the one my wife Asuka is wearing in her photo above. I really hope to be able to collaborate with Yuka very closely in the future!

Anyway, that’s it! Please stay tuned for more – I promise I will post more on this blog this year (last year I only managed 4 posts), but as always thank you very much for stopping by and I hope you enjoyed the photos!