The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

photography

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


Peaceful

Lake Maninjau

Lake Maninjau

Feeling the air of Autumn now in the morning. A different smell and taste here when you wake up. Where I live the mountains are not exactly close by but on certain mornings you are very aware of them.

I spent a lot of my twenties in the mountains both in the UK and abroad. Cold, hard snowy peaks or forested slopes all over the world were places I sought out. Mostly the exposed rocky ridges of temperate ranges where I would test my nerve on climbs  to be true but later, as my ambitions drifted eastwards towards Asia, I found myself in tropical forests too. The air is very different in the jungle but there is an unmistakable familiarity to any vertical geography and even in the crater lake of Danau Maninjau in Sumatra, Indonesia above, despite the palm trees and monkeys, the fishermen and the hideous insects, I felt at home.

This is an old photo I took one morning when I walked down early from the lodges I was staying in the middle of the forest. I wanted to shoot a bit around the edges of the lake itself and enjoyed the refreshing, early-morning temperatures as I descended through the trees that a few hours later would be humid hells. I loved the moist, cooling lake breezes when I arrived and the light as the sun burned the sky and brushed detail into the forested slopes that surround the lake . Maninjau is an amazing place and if you ever have the chance I highly recommend going there.

Off to work in the very urban Tokyo now

Damon


Busman’s Holiday

London bus in Piccadilly Circus

London bus in Piccadilly Circus

As all holidays and breaks tend to be for a photographer.

One month ago, exactly, took this shot in London. We were walking to Westminster from Bank,the sun was setting and it was hard to keep track of a wife, two sons and a niece in the crowds.
Am actually surprised this image came out so well as I think I barely broke my stride while taking it.

It is a classic shot of Piccadilly Circus however and though there is no journalistic story attached it is a nice travel shot of London and a good memory of a good day. I like Tokyo but there is something very special about the light and atmosphere in London on a summer evening. Wish I’d had more time to explore around with my camera. maybe next time.

The walking was hard for the little people in our group so we caught one of these iconic forms of transport for part of the journey and managed to bag some front seats on the top deck. A pretty perfect day to tell the truth.

Off out into the delights of Tokyo now.

Later

Damon


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