I recently took a trip to Tokyo to speak with an acquaintance that I haven’t seen in a very long time. This acquaintance of mine is in his 40’s and has everything that I want in life. He owns his own production company that is doing spectacularly well. He knows everyone in his industry, and maintains good relations with them, and he also moves very quickly. I texted him letting him know that I’d be in the area, and if he knew of any jobs available there. I never got a response from him, but literally within 20 minutes of meeting up with him, we were in the house of one Japan’s most famous photographers.
I told him (the photographer) what I wanted to do, and the three of us talked for close to two hours about photography, and the industry and things that I personally need to improve upon. I mentioned that I wanted to learn more about studio photography, and different lighting techniques and whatnot, and he told me that none of that is really all that important, he said something along the lines of, “…anyone can learn that. What’s really important is learning to connect with your subject.”
Which brings me to my issue. I’m terrible with people. I have anxiety that I’m very good at masking with laughter, or coldness, or something else that would prevent you from knowing how uncomfortable I am. I also have issues with managing my attention, when dealing with others, but that I suppose is an issue for another day. I’ve left Goto, but before leaving I took a bunch of pictures of trees (boredom?), so maybe I’ll write about that when I upload those pictures.
The astute of my zero readers will have probably picked up on this by now, having noticed that this blog has very few portraits or photographs of people on it at all. I’m simply not good at dealing with people, and it’s a topic that I hate talking about as it is usually a one-sided “all you gotta do is…” type of conversation that solves nothing. Regardless though, all of the money in photography comes from shooting and dealing with people, and therefore ‘connecting’ with them, as the photographer stated, is a skill that can sometimes be far more important that one’s technical skill.
One of the reasons I wanted to go to Tokyo is to shoot people on the streets. Not necessarily looking for shots to add to my portfolio, or to share even, just to help me get over this anxiety of dealing with people, and to overcome my own fear and hesitation. A lot of shots that I do have of people are from a distance, not close up, not in their face. There are a lot of photographers who shoot street like that. Just a flash, and a 35-ish lens, and no warning. Bruce Gilden’s work is like that. I used to think that this concept was too simple to produce anything worthwhile, but maybe I felt that way due to my own insecurities/inability to do it myself.
Amongst this confusion, I came up with a way to shoot people without having to really face my issues of dealing with people, because who wants to actually face their problems, right? No one. I hopped on a train and shot away. Trains make for an interesting place to shoot, because it’s almost a perfect situation to shoot someone. You have nice huge windows letting in plenty of light to play around with. The distance between you and the subject is optimal and best of all, you can shoot people in a semi-natural state without them being aware of the fact that you’re shooting them. No shite poses after they see you. It’s really interesting how people will make excuses in their heads about what’s going on. I’m sitting directly across from them with my Epson, and I’ll pretend to be looking at my phone, and then this very loud shutter goes off, but since I’m pretending to not know what is going on, everyone just ignores it. Here are a few shots I took:
Look at them in order, and I’ll give you the narrative that went through my mind when shooting it.
1-2. – I took the guy in the middle’s picture several times. He was clearly not happy about it, so I took it again right when he snapped.
3. – The only two people who are not lost in their cell phones are the older ladies.
4. – I like to sometimes imagine what is going on in the lives’ of other people who are riding the train. What are they going to do for the day? What happened to them before they got on the train? I imagine that this guy’s kids finally went off to college, and now it’s just him and his wife at home. Which sounds great, but while raising their kids, and working hard to provide for them, they’ve realized that they have no fucking clue who the other person is anymore. He is now dreading going home to the awkward environment that the absence of his kids has created, and is trying to figure out how to reconnect with his wife in a natural way. Guaranteed that is what he’s thinking.
5. – Smartphones. It’s such a strange thing to think about, but smartphones only entered our world around 2007, or so. It seems like we’ve been using them forever. I’m on the fence about them. While I’m figuring out whether or not they’ve helped or harmed humanity, I’ll be playing poker on my smartphone.
6. – This gentleman (the one in the middle) was just fired from a job he started last month. In a series of truly regrettable events, that started when he had too much alcohol on an outing with one of his superiors, and ended with him suggesting that if his boss’s love life isn’t so good at home that he should make a trip to Kabukicho sometime, he has yet to fully accept the loss of his job and now rides the train in his suit with no briefcase, reflecting on the mistakes that he has made in life, and figuring out what to do next. The guy in picture 4 was his boss.
7. – This lady is completely confused. I could hear her saying to herself before I took the picture, “This is nothing like the concierge service that I’m used to.” She’s off her meds, and got onto the train by mistake thinking that it was a very large, shiny limousine. Her kids are very concerned, and have already started fighting about inheritance rights. If you know her, please call her immediately and tell her that her bubble bath is ready, and that her housemaid (the only person in her life that truly cares about her) is worried sick.
Well, I’ve found something that I really enjoy, so until I have the opportunity to shoot in a studio, which I pray is sooner rather than later, and really have to make an effort to connect with someone I will enjoy shooting strangers and making up stories about them. I hope you enjoy them.