The Tokyo Workshop – How It Went and What I Learned

500_2380Greetings from Tokyo!

We are in the middle of an amazing workshop here in Tokyo I am finding so much inspiration here.

Coming from New York City, one of the street photography capitals of the world, my home city is a tough act to follow. But Tokyo does not disappoint.

I’ve been here before so it’s not that everything is new for me. But on this my third visit, along with the students I’m venturing out to seriously capture Tokyo street-life with my camera. This city has so much going on and just like New York it has distinct and different rhythms of place. From the ultra modern and frenetic energy of Shibuya and Shinjuku, to the traditional temple in Aasakusa or the overwhelming beauty and quiet tranquility of Happo-en Garden, to the crazy fashionistas in Harajuku—it’s all here.

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But having so much visual candy dangling in front of you can create undo pressure to make good photographs. Sometimes when hit with sensory overload —which Tokyo most definitely delivers —it can be hard to know where to start.

I tell my workshops students to follow their personal curiosity and be selfish, photograph places and situations that connect with them rather than make an image they have seen before because getting personal will set their work apart. Often the more personal you make it, the more universal and powerful the work becomes.

So I ask everyone to give me five words that describe their first impressions of Tokyo. Actually with Tokyo I increased the adjectives to 10, because five wasn’t enough for me…and many of my impressions were completely opposite of each other which I guess is not surprising in a culture where contrasts are all around.

Frenetic, Ordered, Consumerism, Youth, Comfortable, Polite, Clean, Crowds, Fashionable, Conformity, Individualistic, Noise, Quiet, Food, Indulgent—more than 10 words and I could go on.

I do this exercise because it’s a good way to bring to the surface your feelings about a place, which are very personal. Once identified, you can use a word or two or more to give you direction by helping you focus your camera on a theme or idea when you’re not sure where to start.

My partner Soichi Hayashi designed an itinerary around great visual opportunities which took us to well known places but not the typical tourist attractions most tourists line up to see. I think we experienced a deeper understanding of this city and culture because of it.

It was great to have Soichi’s insights into the “Japanese Aesthetic” and his compositional sensitivities when in comes to the art of space within the frame and in the environment we photographed. It was evident when we looked at Soichi’s work and the work of other Japanese photographers. I can’t wait to share with you the work of our workshop passionistas –which I will post in coming days.

More on the Japanese workshop to come. Our next workshop in Tokyo will be in late March 2017 to coincide with the Cherry Blossoms blooming, an added bonus for an already visually rich week of shooting. More info here.


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