It has been a weird couple of weeks since getting back from Japan, but I am finally getting my circadian time cycle closer to normal. As I continue to scan the medium format film, I find more and more that the look of film is becoming the look of my own photography style. In a digital world where I can shoot thousands of quality photos in an hour, I cannot get the same quality of photo as with my Mamiya and film that can capture twelve images per roll.
Maybe it was the experience of being surrounded by Zen and buddhism, but I am seeing simplicity as a path away from the noise that surrounds us in North America. We are often in such a rush to do things that we end up doing nothing well; we are losing the ability to enjoy the process of making things. One colleague joked about my descent backwards into film as being ridiculous and expensive, especially since I end up digitizing my negatives with a scanner anyway. But I see this as a creative process that has taught me to focus on taking the one shot well, to pre-visualize what I hope to capture, and that forces me to spend time with my images as I perfect them digitally in Photoshop and Lightroom. It might be a little mad to take on an older technology when the results from my Canon 1DmkIII are so amazing, but then I have always been mad north-northwest.
My major experiment continues to be the images of the various Japanese women I photographed in Tokyo and Kyoto. The photo above is the first draft in the experiement. I am not going for realism here, but rather I am playing with colour, depth of fields [or a lack of it with the girls themselves] and juxtaposition. In the next step I am looking at blending the exposures on each figure cleanly and deciding if this is THE shot or if I want to split each figure into her own landscape.
So far the scanning process has taken me through 60 of my images, with about 7 of them reaching a close-to-final stage. What I am looking for has been a mood and the light quality that I actually saw there. The vending machine image is one of the first I took when I arrived in Tokyo and was out walking around at night. It epitomizes the efficiency of the Japanese culture and the beauty of their mechanical design. Perfectly cold or hot drinks without failure. These machines are everywhere and really do offer a great variety of easily accessible drinks for the tourist and local alike. My favourite drink had to be the Asahi Milk Tea – I am in withdrawal even now. It might have been that the can design was stunning in its vines of white and dark blues, but the tea was killer and cold.
The strangest person I observed had to be the homeless man in Hiroshima. In fact, I did not realize he was a man until the garbage pieces he had attached to himself began to move and the cat he was feeding purred. Taking photos of the homeless is a tough task for me emotionally, and I only do it in certain situations. In this particular case, the man was clearly deranged in an upsetting way, and maybe that made me feel better knowing that I was not going to shame him by taking one image. If anything, I cannot help but be thankful that I am not that man and that I have always escaped such a fate but for the grace of god. The most disturbing feature of the man’s bicycle raft of stuffed toys was that he had no less than three cats tethered to the bicycle baskets with cords, each wearing patches of cloth pinned and taped to them. I felt like I was watching a madman adrift on the ocean.