If you have been playing along at home and keeping an eye on my past blogs, you will obviously know that I am obsessed with Japan. What part? All of it! The food, the culture, the architecture, the values, the temples, the tech….all of it! And I have had this obsession, nay addiction, since I was a young adult. Fortunately I was able to travel to Japan on three separate occasions, solo, in 2015, 2016 and 2018. So I have been able to feed my addiction with some face to face time in Japan. But as pretty much anyone will contest to, if you have been to Japan once….you will always want for more.
So how do I deal with my withdrawal? First and foremost I have a tonne of reference material in the thousands of photos I have taken during my visits. Seriously thousands! Editing. reviewing, publishing, printing and of course writing about my photography journeys have played a huge part in feeding my need to explore, experience and talk about my love of Japan. If you have read my past blogs then you will have witnessed this. Some of my most cherished and prized photographs have been taken in Japan. So how have I used this extensive catalogue of work to both recall some of my amazing experiences and to represent them in various ways?
So there is the public stuff. On this blog site I have many entries about my photographic experiences and the images I captured. They are usually broken down into each trip and then by days. You can check them out for yourselves. Point is this is a really important part of my journey. It is the unpacking and often results in me coming across images and memories of things I did and places I visited whilst in Japan. Then you will also come across my galleries in which I have placed large volumes of images from various places within Japan and also various experiences. There are loads on here but there are so many more on my hard drives Add to that the images that I have published on my social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook.
Then there is the creation of photobooks. When I returned from my first trip to Tokyo in 2015, I took the time to scan through hundreds and thousands of images and pick the ones that I believed best represented my overall experience. I wanted to show just how alien and amazing Tokyo is compared to anywhere else in the world – at least the world I was aware of. I tried to highlight the staggering shifts between the hyper-modern world presented to me on the nights I spent in Shibuya versus the humble cultural experience you can expect only a kilometre or so away at the Meiji-Jingu temple during the day. The order and incredible history of a world heritage shrine versus the crazy and seemingly haphazard architecture of downtown Shinjuku. Streets packed beyond belief with humanity versus a side alley completely void of life.
Upon my return from my 2016 trip, I ended up producing a book that was probably twice as big as the year before. I did visit three amazing cities in Osaka, Kyoto and Hiroshima. And on this occasion I opted to only print in black and white. I can’t recall why. I am sure I had some artistic reason. This book was more focused despite its size, in that I was documenting how humanity exists, behaves and interacts in such incredible spaces and environments. Both the 2015 and 2016 books were hard cover and printed with high quality stock and binding. They cost a couple of hundred dollars each. The cost was not a big concern to me as I wanted lasting evidence of my experiences.
Upon my return from my trip to Tokyo last year, I wanted to try something a little different. I didn’t want the huge epic volume of images that sat on the shelf collecting dust. I wanted something a little more intimate and filtered. So I opted at first to only make two photo books! Wait..what? That’s right. Two books. The first was titled Tokyo Chrome and was a small collection of street style images. And it was a small collection. Only 34 of my favourite images. The second book was titled Tokyo Monochrome and it too only held a small sample. 33 of my best street shots in black and white. Simple, clean and minimal. Also much more palatable for family and friends that make the mistake of coming to visit too soon after my return from a trip. These two were later followed by a further two books of similar size and style – Tokyo Subway and Robot Restaurant.
The next step for me is to print images. Most photographers will tell you that there is something different and special about reviewing your images in print versus online. They seem to pop a bit more. They seem to represent colour better. They have a tangible texture. I agree with all of this and so print many images from important shoots. As a side note, when I have done photography for friends or paying clients I always give them a sample of their images printed and not just a digital file. So I will print my images in various sizes. A big fan of 5″x7″ as they give a great level of detail and are relatively cheap to both print and frame. But I must admit that I have prints in my house up to 30″x40″ and everything in between. Framing with glass really does do a good image justice. It gives it presence and pop and shows that it is an important piece. And a great photo presented right becomes art. I highly recommend any photographer to print and frame their works or at the very least print them and stick them up somewhere they can give you feedback and satisfaction.
My living room has some very large framed pieces from my Japan trips. My absolute favourite – night shoot in Shinjuku – is framed above my desk where I write to you from now. My bedroom has a lot of framed images from my trips. Again mostly 5″x7″ as they are cheap to print and frame and you can also fit more images in a space that way. But another cheap and easy way for me to have access to memories is right on the back of my bedroom door. When I was a kid, it used to drive my mum nuts that I was a fan of movie posters. I used to go down to the local video store (who here remembers those?) and sift through the box of expired movie posters. I had them everywhere! And even a couple on the outside of my bedroom door as a kind of silent protest to my mothers over-use of the colour beige! Love you mum.
Sorry I should keep those kinds of outburst for my therapy sessions. On my bedroom door now is a collection of printed images from all three of my trips to Japan. Thrown in there are a lot of postcards. Ones that I picked up whilst in Japan showing traditional art and also many showing the art from Studio Ghibli animation films. Add to this art cards I picked up at a couple of art exhibitions featuring Japanese artists. With a couple of those small 3M clear stick on hooks, I have a bunch of little keychain trinkets I picked up on my travels. A couple of beer coasters, train tickets, stickers and I have a nice little memory wall that is just for me to stand in front of and admire and recall and dream of a return in the not too distant future.
That brings us to the end of Part 1 of how I manage my addiction with Japan. What do I hope to gain from this series? A couple of things I guess. One is to be able to keep writing about my love of Japan. It is good therapy. Another is to share with you how I personally create lasting memories and experiences that pay homage to something I love. Such practices could be applied to anything really. It doesn’t even have to be travel related. Love cats? Make a decoupage shrine to cats! See. Simple. And perhaps to help other travellers make the most of of their experiences. I know a lot of people that travel will very rarely do something that is lasting with their travel experiences. Especially when it comes to photos. Even if you just hang one piece of memorabilia from a journey somewhere you will see it, it will take you there for the briefest of moments. And that is in itself magical.