The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

photography

Cemetery Gossip

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One of the problems of having been in the same city for so long is that on photo safaris it is easy to end up in  a place you have already been. On Friday, as I was wandering around enjoying the wonderful Autumn light, I found myself in Aoyama Cemetery again.

I was last there about six or seven years ago and the views, as you would expect of a cemetery, had not changed that much. One advantage of being in Tokyo though is that it is never really boring and there are always new pictures to find if you look. As I walked around looking for something I had not seen before I found these two monks talking in the cemetery temple. I didn’t get too close preferring not to disturb them and shot from a distance with the shrine roof and doorway providing a frame for them.

Nice little encounter on a short but magically lit day out.

Busy at the moment, more later.

Damon


All Hell Breaks Loose

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It is All Hallows’ Eve, an ancient European festival of remembrance that is more or less meaningless to most people these days. But it is known as Halloween and celebrated very energetically in many countries, especially in America (and since the movie ET also in Britain) and even in Japan where the young dress up in costumes and put on rather macabre make-up and parade noisily around places like Shibuya enjoying this totally strange, borrowed piece of culture.

I have shot it a few times and it is fun, the crowds all seem to have a good time and the costumes reference Japanese popular-culture icons and for some reason lots of nurses along with the usual vampires and monsters.

Anyway sending images off to agencies and such like thought I would just share a few portraits from tonight here with you.

More stock images of 2014 Halloween in Tokyo available a my archive here:

Later

Damon


In Readiness

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It is probably going to be occupying my time a lot over the next 6 years but am beginning to shoot some of the preparations for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. The controversial main stadium will be built from and over the remains of the 1964 Olympic National Stadium in Shinjuku. I was there last week looking for some of the preparations going on.

A lot of the work is being carried out behind walls and truthfully not a lot appears to be happening as of yet but am sure I’ll be seeing and photography a lot more activity around the capital as the infrastructure come together.

There are many stories related to the preparations for this Olympics, not least the fact that money is being poured into the event when many in Tohoku are still suffering the effects of the 2011, March 11th earthquake and tsunami. Prime Minister Abe’s assurances at the IOC, and elsewhere in the bidding process, that Fukushima nuclear disaster is under control is also something that has a lot of people wanting to show the world the opposite truth. There are people in Tokyo that are similarly angry at the effect the Games will have on their lives.

Hope to find quite a lot to shoot but for now some images of the demolition and remodelling of National Stadium.

Later

Damon


Saving Graceless

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Interesting report on efforts to save the Nakagin Capsule Tower in the Japan Times here.

Have seen and photographed this unusual and very original building a few times as I walk past it on other photo missions. It has a interesting history and was a unique experiment in finding an answer to housing in a crowded city with limited space.

It may not be to everyones taste but I do hope that it is able to be saved. Even the follies on our architectural evolution are better for us to keep, as we can learn from them.

Think I might have to take a return trip there, with more purpose, just in case, as is unfortunately likely, the developers win and this bizarre addition to the Tokyo skyline disappears.


Sleeping

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This man can often be seen in Shibuya doing this. I thought he was drunk and exhausted at first but having seen hims few times it now appears that it is some sort of performance art, perhaps a comment on the somnuambulant nightmare that is a salaryman’s life .

All I know is it must be very  tiring to stand like this for long, yet he seems to be able to look relaxed and sleepy while doing it.

Just one of the many wonderful and weird things you can see in Tokyo.

Later

Damon


Home

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An Englishman’s house my well be his castle but unless you are very rich it is unlikely to look much like a castle. In Japan the very, very ordinary life of some salarymen could very well start and finish each day in a house that ticks all the right fantasy palace boxes however.

Amazing architecture is one of the great pleasures of wandering around this country and especially Tokyo. While a lot of the urban vistas you’ll see might be humdrum and even ugly, dotted here and there among the endless screes of concrete are some truly mind-boggling buildings like those above  which I shot in Azubu in May.

Architectural experimentation combined with a pragmatic use of, often very limited, space (see top photo) means that buildings can take on very unique shapes. In my 12 years here I have seen a lot of these follies. I have even sought out some of the more famous ones for a shot or two. I once thought of getting a photographic collection of them together purely for the stock value alone but never really followed through on it. The effort involved in seeking-out each oddity jarred with my serendipitous photo-farming habit on my free days. Plus I didn’t think there would be enough return on it.

Unluckily for me I was wrong apparently because French photographer, Jeremie Souteyrat cleverly used the lack of any competition from me and has now published a book called: Tokyo No Ie – Maisons de Tokyo in which he shows a beautiful collection of his photos cataloguing many of the strangest and most interesting examples of this architecture in Tokyo.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in architecture, Tokyo or photography. It is a great work of art: just the feel of the pages says quality and the photos shine with curiously addictive depths. Even if the urbanity they show is grey and grimy, you will find yourself looking around them, examining every corner of the frame. The focus is of course on the wonderful and bizarre constructions that are the artistic purpose of the book but this is also street photography; more is happening in many of the pictures and you can get an interesting glimpse into parts of Tokyo that many people never go.

So I now no longer need to shoot these type of buildings as Jeremie has cornered the market I think, buy the book though and see why I won’t stop. They are just too interesting a find on a day out. As you trudge the suburbs of Tokyo on a free day or find one on the way to another photo job, that invariably takes place in some boring tower of concrete and glass, they put a smile on your face.

Later

Damon


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