Hopper Times

It has been noted that Edward Hopper is the artist of the pandemic. This evening his “Office in a Small Town” floated past in the unending stream of images that make up the current ‘net experience.

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It really does have a great sense of isolation / loneliness. For me there was some other flicker of recognition. A photograph that is oddly similar.

This was taken at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (都庁) building West Shinjuku in 2009. At that particular time the only Edward Hopper work that i would have known was “Nighthawk”.

Somehow many of the elements of “Office in a Small Town” have ended up repeated here. There must be something about the composition / proportions makes it “work”. However, it is strange for them to be so similar and yet so far apart in time, medium and feeling.

The photograph was originally “Untitled”, but now deserves a title… “Shiver and Shake”.

Shinjuku Corridor

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This has been lying around for a long time unprocessed (taken 13/09/2009!). The scan was dirty, but in the end ten minutes of processing was all it took.

The reflections in the highly polished floor are what caught my eye… really should go back there and see what’s at the other end!

Blau SIM in Japan

[Posting because i couldn’t find this information easily online]

Was rather surprised to find that my venerable unlocked Vodafone branded Nokia 5800 XpressMusic (shipped in 2008!) with a German Blau.de SIM *now* works in Japan. That’s notable as two years ago the exact same phone and Sim resolutely refused to connect to anything!

If only it was something other than stubbornness that stopped me from “upgrading” – i’ve never bought a phone, and see very little need to start now, he Luddited.

The rates aren’t terrible for what i need. It’s 99¢ / min for voice, 19¢ / SMS, and 99¢ / MB for data. The only data i need is for mail, and thus far i’ve yet to manage to the use a megabyte in a week. The only “problem” is that it’s completely impossible to decrypt / encrypt pgp on this thing… well, maybe there is a Symbian pgp mail app out there somewhere, but you have to draw the line somewhere!

Also finally bought the infamous CA-100C cable and can charge thing thing off a laptop / iDevice wall-wart. Worldwide mobility is within my grasp, etc.

It Takes Time

千代田線

Every now and then, i’ll look at one of these kinds of shots as i’m paging through “past glories” and suddenly stop, wondering ‘what on earth… ohhh! clever!’. This was one of those.

Oh, and look at the light that is parallel to the top of the frame. Not a very smart way to try to get things level / square. Live and learn.

The Lone Man

‘Lone salaryman’ shots, with a film noir look are another part of the repertoire that i’ve picked up from Sean Wood. It’s good to have creative friends. All that said, i don’t think he’d have taken the shot this way… so while the theme might be “borrowed” the execution feels very me (for good or bad, i still can’t say…)

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Sean and i have had an interesting time giving and taking inspiration. I’d like to think that it made both of us better photographers, but even if it didn’t i got a lot of enjoyment from shooting together, and even more from discussing the results over a beer!

This one is another from 2009 (still a good year) and was taken in Odaiba, probably around one of the big wedding hotels.

Wonderland

Another chance to lax wyrical about the joys of photography in Tokyo. I’ve probably said it all already, but it really was the great photographic city of my life (“so far”, he muttered hopelessly…) The density and craziness of the non-planned sprawl, the completely mind-numbing overload of signs, signals, noise, directions, distractions… it all adds up to a wonderland of alice like proportions.

両国

Was apparently taken in September of 2009, in or around a place labelled ‘両国’ which is now unreadable to me, but looks suspiciously like the area where the sumo happens… just looked it up: Ryougoku, where the sumo happens. How about that.

Iterating to… where?

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It happens. I’d got into my head there there was a shot here somewhere. All that was required was to bring all the elements together. First it was just the shape of the monitors and the perspective down the platform, then it need a train, then both trains, then people in the monitors, then rain, then the guard… and motion… you don’t want to know how many evenings i spent there hoping all the pieces to come together.

And, these aren’t even my favourite trains!

The Dizzying Descent…

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[sing along if you know the words...]

One of the themes that runs through a great deal of my Tokyo shots is this ’tilt’. To me it has always about the geometry – if the lines / curves running through a frame are strong the shot works. My theory is that by tilting the world off it’s normal axis these lines / curves stand out more because the viewer is thrown off by the angle, and it requires effort to take in the scene. The first glance might not immediately reveal the reality of the shot, and at that point the geometry is more obvious.

There are a couple of obvious problems: the explanation sounds like a bunch of “art wank”; it’s very easy to overuse or abuse.

Still, i’d always imagined it would be fun to do a gallery show with only these shots and see how many people gave up and just tilted heads to compensate!

[This one doesn’t really work for me – there is too much dead space in the top right of the frame. If the effect in the bottom left was repeated top right… but there was no light.]

Giza (not Ginza) by the Bay

Tokyo Big Sight

While working on my shots for the second Fragments of Tokyo there were a lot of attempts that simply wouldn’t work out. These mostly got posted on flickr under the monicker “Various Failures” (shamelessly stolen from The Swans album of the same name), which mostly prompted people to tell me to that they liked them, and that it wasn’t a failure.

What i was really trying to get across was that the shots were a failure in the context of what i wanted to show in the exhibition. Some simply happened too late, others didn’t really fit in with the general feeling, other needed to be re-attempted.

That exhibition was the first time that i’d really worked with a vision of what should be on the walls firmly fixed in my head. The process was in turn endlessly enjoyable, frustrating, and exhausting.

Tokyo Big Sight was an attempt to see a little differently through perspective and bring the pyramids to Tokyo Bay. As you can see above it didn’t really work out. There is definitely a time of day, a focal length where it could have been made to work… but that never coincided with any of my attempts to have it happen! There are, of course, numerous others that will never see the light of day.

One day i’ll go back and get it right… shame it’s such a pain in the arse to get to!