Learning photography in a unique place

Lonely Girl
I was always interested in photography, but it was in Tokyo where I really got myself into it. Tokyo is a special city and Japan, in general, is an amazing country. Not the amazingness that you can expect from a merely touristic point of view. Japan is special in so many ways: culture, architecture, language, food, design… The list can run endlessly.

I matured my photography mainly in Tokyo, using the environment, the streets, the night. I did this so many times per week during so many years. I trained my mind to dig into the landscape in front of me and find those particular details that inspired me to take a picture and tell a story.

After spending a couple of months in Europe I realized that I’m not trained, I’m quite lost. My brain searches using a pattern that doesn’t work in EU. Why? Well, the only conclusion I came out with is that I matured my skills and experience in photography in an environment that is unique. I didn’t start photography traveling, working on assignments or for money. I just started doing it as a hobby and it became a passion.

Why Japan is so special for photography:

  1. Security!! This is the most unique characteristic. It’s safe to go everywhere, at any time. It doesn’t matter if the streets are dark, empty or crowded. People don’t bother you, everybody ignores everybody in the streets. Even if you are surrounded by people, you can feel perfectly alone.
    Security let me total freedom carrying the equipment I wanted. I could go beyond what I really needed. It is very important to learn what you really need and what you really use. I moved from carrying a huge bag to just a couple of selected lenses. I didn’t have to hide my equipment, I didn’t have to cover the camera maker or serial number to avoid calling attention. I didn’t have to choose a bag that is hard to be stolen. I could choose a bag thinking in my convenience first.
  2. You can find 24h convenience stores or drink selling machines in every corner, which makes it so easy to eat or take a refreshment in a photowalk. I didn’t have to bring any food or bottle with me
  3. It’s so easy to buy any kind of photo gear ever made on earth. Second hand shops are amazing and electronic department stores let you play with every new camera. It’s possible to experiment with almost everything!
  4. Architecture in Tokyo is so disruptive at every corner. You can find a huge modern building followed by an old wooden one. There is no architecture order which I find fascinating, specially for an European point of view. We are so used to “normalization”, that the architecture landscape in Europe looks the same at every corner. There is no freedom to build whatever the heck you want, everything has to “conform” with that cylon-like-“perfect”-architectural design that, sooner or later, becomes tremendously boring. I find architecture in Tokyo amazing, like many other mayor cities in Japan, and it shows the difference between Japanese gardens and European ones. In Europe we have beautiful gardens but they are obviously fake. I mean, everyone can understand that the garden didn’t grow in that way naturally. Everything is perfectly shaped, ordered and geometrical. Japanese gardens, on the other hand, express their beauty while keeping a natural design. The line between artificial and natural is so blur. The same happens with architecture. Even if many Japanese friends of mine say that Tokyo is an ugly city, I find it fascinating because the concrete jungle evolves as a living being, with disruptions, discrepancies, and lack of order and geometry, typical of natural environments.
  5. I can find a lot of old things which are not ancient ones. There are ancient constructions that survived the pass of time, but they are few and located in specific areas. Cities renew themselves very quickly, so you won’t find a stone building from the XIV century still in use. Anyway, in Europe you can not really travel in time. You can realize that an ancient building is from another era, but just that building, not the whole atmosphere around. In Japan people wait until something really breaks before trashing it out. So it’s very easy to find places frozen in the 50’s or 70’s. That contrast gives a lot of opportunities to get interesting photographs. You can literally travel in time. Some restaurants or some areas in old train stations, didn’t change during the last 30 or 40 years while others are just ahead in the future.
  6. The night in Tokyo is magic. The lights, colors, specially after the rain, are awesome. The lights reflected in the streets, or those that appear through those transparent umbrellas, or the taxis, or the small ambulant shops selling ramen… or the infinite other fantastic places that inspire you out to take a picture, those are Tokyo’s magic.
  7. Districts in Tokyo change so much in terms of atmosphere, people, ages, style. It’s totally different walking in Shimokitazawa or in Shinjuku, Shibuya or Shinbashi. Each zone has its own different urban culture.

These are the main reasons I think enjoying photography in Japan is so different and unique respect other countries. Security and a strong civic sense are the main ones by the way.