Full Circle

Taken a while, but there it is.

Larry, the printer, has something like 40 years of experience. Spending some time in the darkroom with him is an amazing education. In an hour i at least managed to learn how little i know…

Can’t help but conclude that the real artists are the printers, and the rest of us are just button mashers!

Anyway, i’m going to stick with Ilford Delta 400 Pro pushed to 1600 in DD-X. That large strip is something like 50cm, and looks great. Really smooth grain, and a great tone. How much of that is down to the printing i don’t really know… i got asked some fairly complicated german questions about what i wanted to see in the print, and maybe didn’t answer all of them correctly. What i think i asked for was slightly lower contrast, and richer tone. Which some how maps to longer exposure of the paper at a smaller aperture… or maybe i have that backwards?


No, not coke, honest!

Charlie Kirk a.k.a. “Two Cute Dogs” is a 37 year old oxbridge educated Englishman who has been living in Japan for the last 9 years. He has been taking photographs for about 2 years and has been reasonably happy with some of his pictures for about the last year. He recently quit his job as an obscenely well paid lawyer to take a shortish sabbatical in order to scare more people with his flash.

You really should go watch this. Really. Go watch it now.

Adrian aka 宇宙人 has been doing these shorts for a while now, and they’re just getting better and better. My only wish is that he never gets it into his head to make one about me… thinking about it, he’d give up after collecting hours of footage of me typing. Probably safe.

Ilford: first blood

A month later, and i’ve finally got to developing the backlog of film that has accumulated since we got here. Five rolls of 135 and two rolls of 120. The 135 was Tri-X and Agfa APX-100, developed in Rodinal (13mins @ 20C). The 120 is my first foray into Ilfotec DD-X, (pushed to 1600, 13m30s @ 20C) as described previously. Even pushed two stops, the Delta 400 Professional looks pretty good. I’ll take a negative in to Larry and get a print done. Not entirely sure that i’m worthy, but it’ll be a good test 🙂

The Ilford chemicals are nice. All liquid, and while i’m a little worried about how long they’ll last on the shelf, they are super easy to mix and work with. That said, paper cuts and citric acid really don’t mix. Ouch!

Also fresh back from the lab are two rolls of cheap colour negative C-41, and my last roll of Velvia, that must have been in the camera since Japan. For shame.


Forgot to mention that Jan Kopp seems a competent / professional lab. C-41 / E-6 in a couple of hours, and 4,20€ a roll. Thanks for the recommendation Tom!


The above is shot at ruins St.-Nicolai-kirche, in downtown Hamburg. It’s an interesting monument, and a good symbol of the difference in attitudes towards war between Japan and Germany.

Unlike Japan, Germany has expended much energy and emotion in trying to come to terms with the aftermath, and implications, of its actions in the 20th Century. Throughout Hamburg there are signs of contrition, little notes of acknowledgement, reassurances that lessons have been learnt. From the little brass pavers, engraved with the names of jewish residents who ended up in concentration camps, to the humble, and contrite, descriptions of the events that lead to St. Nikolai standing in ruins, it’s all very open, matter of fact. No hiding. So much so that you’d probably worry that many generations are going to be burdened with the guilt of their fathers.

Drink! Drink! Drink to our fathers
For they are real men and we are just boys
Boys! Boys! In games playing dangerous
And blood of baby must be spilt
To make up for our daddy’s guilt

— Sons find Devils, Virgin Prunes

Why Is Japan so different? It’s too easy (lazy?) to…

I got bored. But the picture is nice.

[Update: back again]

It’s too easy (lazy?) to blame it all on culture, on the Japanese being insular, and referencing  a Christian sense of guilt / confucianism also feels like a dodge. Karel van Wolferen tells a more complete story of what happened in Japan during the early days of the occupation. The US was mostly interested in using Japan as a bulwark against communism in Asia. Consequently they drew from the pool of right-wing, nationalist (war criminals) that that has (successfully?) organised the kantougun in Manchurian / Korea.

Rather than prosecuting, as happened in Nüremburg, class A war criminals were “re-habilitated” and made the heads of important ministries. The labour movement in Japan was consequently crushed. The teachers union, for example, has had a decades long battle with the Ministry of Education, which was mostly run by people from the Tokubetsu koutou keisatsu. The bureaucracies controlling the police, health care (green cross), and even major corporations like Dentsu, have similar backgrounds.

Such a situation was impossible in Europe, mostly due to the involvement of the Russians in securing the peace. Had the Red Army reached Japan before Hiroshima and Nagasaki were A-bombed, maybe Japan would have a different attitude to its past. Which is a lot of would have, could have, should have…

When all the mechanisms of education, media, and control are in the hands of avowed nationalist, right-wing parties it’s hard to imagine any other outcome. Perhaps that’s the lesson of The Enigma of Japanese Power: if you can control enough of the system change becomes incrementally more and more difficult.

It is always why i think that the DPJ staying in power, however ineffective it might appear at times, is so important. Ozawa, for all his faults, really understands that the real struggle is about wrestling control out of the hands of the bureaucrats and into those of the directly elected.

Something of a ramble. Sorry… been on my mind. The contrast is a little stark.


I’m having a sort of photographic lull. Which isn’t to say that nothing is working, just that it’s all very random and directionless.

really happy with this one...

Attempting to carry on the architecture project in Hamburg feels wrong. Or at least i’m not inspired by it yet. Perhaps Tokyo really is some sort of magical city for photography. Certain it is hard to match for density and (architectural) diversity.

The River Elbe running through Hamburg, with all the associated docks, container ships, cruise liners, etc. is far more interesting than the buildings (which isn’t to say that the buildings are uninteresting, they’re just of a different scale / diversity / number). Unfortunately said river is also proving rather difficult to engage with: access is difficult, and short of actually living down by the water, so is timing.

In the meantime, while waiting for inspiration, i’m going through the motions. Shooting a bit of everything and wondering what will stick. It doesn’t feel very satisfying. Mope.

Where is the new ‘Normal’?

Update to a graph i’ve posted a few times. It makes the point that the current “recession” isn’t like previous recessions for Amurikans. You can see over time how the recovery period for jobs spreads. This would appear to reflect the trend of replacing expensive americans with cheap asians (and a healthy slosh of oil, and hence the inexorable rise in crude prices, despite the moribund economy).

Given that there is essentially zero jobs growth in the states right now, it begs the question: where is the new normal? If the jobs continue to be exported to where ever is cheapest, as surely they must in a ‘free market’, the West will become more like China (and China more like the West).

If the CEOs / presidents are the new lords, the executives are the princes, middle management are the courtiers, the professionals are the clergy… not sure who gets to be the merchants, maybe the small business owners? And, the rest? Peasants / serfs. Welcome back to middle ages feudal society!

Looking on the bright side, the peasants revolt has already started in a few places…