japanese

Red Lantern, Red Jacket

Working with Aussie model Shaun Ripper in the backstreets of Kyoto. Shaun is represented by GTR Global.

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Testing with Mikio in Kyoto

It has been ages since I did a test shoot, as I’ve been busy moving countries! But I finally got the chance to do an un-structured, freestyle shoot with Mikio, a model that I met in Tokyo. He was in Kyoto for a trip, so we decided to meet up and do a test shoot for his book.

One thing that I really love about Japan is the light. Photographers, you will understand. The quality of the light here is beautiful, its much softer and hazier than Melbourne, which has a very hard, intense kind of light. I feel very inspired shooting in Japan.

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We shot these images at a university campus in Kyoto (I pretended to be an exchange student so that we could get free parking.) It was surprisingly diverse with many different textures and areas to explore, and a lot of the buildings were brand new, with gorgeous architecture. I really wanted this shoot to be about Mikio, and not about the location, which is why I opted for simple backgrounds. I also didn’t want it to be stereotypically ‘Japanese,’ which is why we didn’t shoot at a shrine or other similar structure.

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Japanese folios are so different from those in Melbourne. They really lean towards the smiley, happy, commercial look, whereas in Melbourne it is all about looking serious and slightly pissed off or bored. The contrast is really interesting. So I tried to include some more serious expressions in Mikio’s shots, so balance out his very ‘happy’ images. We got a few smiley ones in there too though, to keep his agent happy! Thanks Mikio for a great first shoot in Kyoto!

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I’m Famous

Something different today- I’m on the other side of the camera!

In preparation for moving to Japan, I started working at KUU Cafe in South Melbourne to practice my Japanese speaking and listening. KUU is run by an entirely Japanese team (aside from me and one other staff member- the token “foreigners”) so every shift is a great chance to study without studying. I came across the job purely by chance, as I had eaten there for the first time a week beforehand, then saw the add on Seek. I was looking to mix up my photography a bit at the time, so it seemed like fate.

Anyway, long story short, is seems that some of my workmates and I have become instafamous on the KUU and the MishMelbourne instagram feeds. No autographs please haha.

Human Canvas

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Something that often raises its head in my mind is the topic of personal insecurity. Not in the financial or physical sense, but more in the way of a mindset or mentality. Being a photographer, my work is a visual medium, and therefore every job has infinite possible resolutions and outcomes (rather than one ‘correct’ answer). That makes it highly subjective, and very open to interpretation. I think that many artists are a little insecure about their work deep down, and I am not a stranger to doubting my own abilities or artistic vision. So when someone approaches me with praise for my style, I get very very excited (if not a little “aww shucks” esque.)

One such kind soul was Alex Nixon, a student studying makeup. Alex had seen my work online and asked me to document one of her projects, which involved body painting. She sent me some references, and noted that she wanted to create a piece that was inspired by Chinese and Japanese traditional paintings. This was, of course, right up my alley, so I agreed straight away. We organised a date and time, as well as a gorgeous model – Chervil Tan from Vivien’s.

On shoot day, Alex pre-painted Chervil’s back before arriving at the studio. The references she sent me had been quite well-lit, with a pale grey background, so that is what I started off with. I wanted to ensure that I documented Alex’s work clearly, so that you could see the brushstrokes and fine details.

But after that, I wanted to have some fun of my own.

I thought that the concept and subject would really suit some darker, more moody lighting. So once we had the lighter shots captured, I changed the lighting to something more directional, to really accentuate texture and form. I love the way that the light falls on the body (in the image above), as the physical 3D nature of the back and shoulders blends with the painted landscape. I was also careful to keep the face in shadow, so that the emphasis was still on the painting, and the image had a sense of anonymity about it.

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Of course, I took some portraits as well, and some shots to show the makeup on Chervil’s face (not just her back!) How gorgeous is the kimono? Alex whipped it up herself the night before. So much skill! The colours were also really gorgeous, especially against the hues of the cheeks.

I wanted to capture a quiet, almost still mood for these images, and I think they came out well. Alex was absolutely stoked with the shots, which I was really pleased about. All the best with the folio Alex!

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Tokyo Film Scans

The feeling of picking up your developed film is so exciting, and has a certain air of nostalgia to it as well. I was really excited to pick up two rolls that I had shot in Tokyo last year, because I couldn’t remember what was on them.

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These frames are all from test shoots with models from Folio Management in Tokyo’s Minato ward. They were taken on 35mm film that I rolled myself back in highschool, but had not yet shot. Hence the little imperfections like dust, scratches, and leaks. I actually love these features and think they give extra character to the frames. Because the film was so old, I had no idea if it had been exposed, or if it would even look any good. These shots were digitally scanned, but no retouching or adjustments have been made. Not even exposure or contrast adjustments. They are completely raw.

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I find that there is something really ‘real’ about film photos. I tend to look at them for longer, rather than skim over them quickly as I might with digital photos. There seems to be a part of the subject’s soul in these frames, as if they are really looking at me. This might sound weird, but that’s how I feel. I think film also has a timeless sort of look to it.

When I was in Hokkaido earlier this year, I went one step further and purchased a disposable camera from the convenience store there. I’ve been shooting single frames on it, but still haven’t finished it. So I’m really interested in what is on that camera. The suspense is all part of the excitement. I also like the way that having such an “ammeter” camera removes a certain barrier when shooting. Nobody seems to notice or care if I put the $10 disposable to my eye, whereas they may change their behaviour or shy away if I raise my DSLR. Observing the difference in psychology is interesting.

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Strangers at F1.8

In Tokyo last year I challenged myself to walk up to random strangers on the street and take their portrait. I had a roll of black and white Ilford, and a plastic 50mm lens. I am inherently shy, so asking people if I can take their portrait is pretty intimidating. With my lens choice, I had to be close, and I also wanted to capture engaged (rather than candid) portraits.

These are a few of my favourite ones. I spent quite a while talking to the man in the glasses, after taking about 15 minutes to work up the courage to approach him. He was dressed very eccentrically in bright colours, and was sort of pacing on the spot in Akihabara. He seemed like a real character, but from the way he was moving I wasn’t sure if he had been drinking for a while or not. But I knew I’d kick myself in the butt if I didn’t at least try to ask him. He ended up being really really lovely, and I talked to him for a good 20 minutes. He told me about how he made his own earrings out of metal and bottle tops. He had a very calm, gentle nature and complimented my terrible Japanese. I’m so glad that I got to speak with him and learn a little about his life.

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This girl is one of the many school kids who approached me at Asakusa shrine to ask “what is your country” and “what is your favourite Japanese food?” If you have ever been to Asakusa shrine, you will know that being bombarded by school kids is to be expected if you are a foreigner. I think that the English teachers all take their classes there, as this happens literally every time I go. In any case, this girl was part of a group of 5 that were asking me the aforementioned deep and philosophical questions. Because the ice was already broken, I took the opportunity to ask her to take a picture.

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I kind of cheated on the last one, it’s my friend’s son. Isn’t he just a nugget! Gorgeous light from the balcony door.

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Finally, a non-portrait. This may look like somewhere in developing Asia, but it is actually a game arcade in Kawasaki that is designed and fitted out to look this way. The design is actually more interesting than the games themselves (in my opinion.) It is meant to look like the slums of Hong Kong, and the attention to detail is amazing! To get in you have to cross a misty aqua body of water, carefully stepping on rocks. The doors also make noises as you go through. It’s called Anata No Warehouse (あなたのウェアハウス). I loved the hanging chickens.

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Ichiko | 衣知子

I can’t believe I haven’t blogged this yet! Here are some shots I took of Ichiko in Tokyo last year. Ichiko is signed with Folio Management in Azabujuban, and she was great fun to work with! We shot in the streets surrounding the agency office, exploring the different textures that Tokyo’s suburban landscape has to offer.

お昨年、私は衣知子さんの写真を撮りました。衣知子さんはフォリオ マネジメントのモデルです。写真撮影とても楽しかったです。会社の近くところに撮りました。私たちは日本語だけが話しました。ちょっとチャレンジでしたけど良かった。どうもありがとう衣知子さん!!

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We conducted the whole shoot in Japanese, and Ichiko was really easy to photograph. She didn’t need any warming up and was able to give off a range of expressions with ease. She also moved so well, creating great shaped with her body. I have to say I was really jealous of her hair- why can’t my hair grow that long!

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We shot for about an hour before returning to the warmth of the Folio office. I love shooting in Tokyo and never tire of the landscape. I just feel very inspired by what is around me- probably because it isn’t the same as Melbourne. The light in Japan is also different; there is just something about it that excites me visually. On the day that Ichiko and I worked together, it was overcast and kind of dull, but that didn’t stop us.

Thank you so much Ichiko for being an amazing model <3

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Ichiko is represented by Folio Management Tokyo