Stay Sharp

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Live "House" D.I.Y

My focus and aim have been elsewhere for some time now as you who have followed my blog will know, so it has been around 3 years since I was shooting live bands, the Tokyo metal underground style. Now back "home" and was invited to this metal event I decided to take up my trusted 15mm full frame lens and shoot mainly flash stuff all night. I always liked the tone and movement you get with the right lens and camera/strobe setting combined with positioning real close. When it all goes according to plan I end up with many times a messy light cacophony of strikes and controlled blurs. To capture the mood of the atmosphere of the extremeness of it all is almost impossible, but for me and with my twisted view of things this is pretty close to what I experience, the sound is obviously missing but all the rest is there…in a way. Can be a nuisance, I imagine, for the band members to have a camera right in the face or close enough to be in the way though. I always make sure that they know who I am and what I am doing, always sharing my work with the bands as a thanks and have during the years built up a very trusting and close friendship with many musicians and the people around the whole "scene". Tonight I shot my good friends in Thrash/Death metal band Ogre japan, so a nice way to easy myself back in, could relax some in all the mayhem. Really cool to see these guys again and though one of the shittiest sound settings from the "live house" PA I have ever heard the gig was intense and just brutal. Being back again and meeting, talking to people I have shot during the years was fun and not much has changed except maybe the presence of foreigners in the audience. Which is really positive I think. 

It's funny how extreme high technical level these bands in Japan have and yet think that bands from either Europe and the US have the upper hand when it comes to delivering. All foreigners I met would agree to this, and are always surprises that things aren't more open and "out" there. I remember seeing this documentary about the American Hard core movement back in the 80's, how the bands published zines, printed posters and pressed mini EP's all the DIY way, that's how things are in modern Japanese society 2012. Most of tonights bands would easily rip a hole in and make a serious mark in the Euro/US metal scene. These guys are deeply dedicated to what they do even though it's unheard of anyone making a living on or off the art form. That less than 0.01% of the bands will ever have a remote chance to take it over ground seems to make no difference, that's why I am attracted to shooting these guys/gals and the bands they have shaped into something solid and real

Looked like this….
Photo by Ryoko Hironaga

when I shot this one...

5-10 years ago you never saw any foreign media or photographers at events and gigs like this i.e. pretty underground. I was mainly the only gaijin back then, cool to see that the expat community finally have caught up and start to pay some more attention to this great sub culture shunned by the mainstream minions. Saw at least 3 other either pro or advanced amateurs shooting tonight. Would be cool to see their results since I could tell out approach to it all seemed to differ greatly. This guy below had a by todays measure an "old school" external battery pack (shot film?) for flash boost and a beat up Nikon, very cool. Anyone know who guy?

Sorry brother, just had to post this one as well. Do Or Die!


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Japanese Food, Love It...

Called "nabe" in Japan. Perfect food on a cold night. Chicken, Pork, tofu, cabbage, mushroom etc etc, perfect with some South African Shiraz.

…or "Oden", ground fish, daikon, kombu, tofu in all shapes. Simmering in a clear and full flavoured  broth. Cold weather stuff!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Back In Town

Haven't seen my friend Jun since I visited him in San Jose in 2009. He has since moved to San Diego, become a father and still doing his thing, really good seeing him again. Snapped by Mikele Iannello.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Walk In The Woods

Just an hour outside of Tokyo you'll find some great hiking trails up in the low mountains. Woke up at 5, got to the end station which is called Takaosanguchi  i.e. Mt Takao Entrance, and started up with an extra 20kg dummy weight in my backpack (two dumbbells wrapped in jeans and sweatshirts), pressing down with serious force. I used to come here before my last Himalaya project to get used to new boots and packs and to not get a workout in this morning felt wasteful. Bought a "home" pickled daikon on the way down from an old woman at the start of the trail. Tasted clean and fresh, forest.

Funny, this place always make me long for higher altitude, ABC (Annapurna Base Camp) and EBC (Everest Base camp) is always lingering in my mind and a return journey to both of them will be done one day later down the trail. The hardship and near death experiences is long forgotten and only the good parts has been sorted out to become a good base mind for trips to come. Mt.Kailash in Tibet is also a string pulling forcefully. The holiest of mountains. Man, the list goes on and on…the dreaded Eiger in central Switzerland and Matterhorn would be great just to see and spend some time around. I can see myself bivouac for weeks below and among these European peaks. I'm no mountain climber and not a spiritual guy and never longed to be either, but you who have spent some time amongst the giants know that there is a strong pull at these location that is hard to explain. For now this humble +500m peak will have to do, just dream on and strive to make it a reality, usually works. 


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

35mm and Lu Yuan Min

I went to Shanghai in 2003. In a local book store I found a book by photographer Lu Yuan Min called "Shanghainese 1990-2000" by Shanghai Literature & art Publishing House. Lu's black and white photography stood out, his big body of work in this little orange book showed a true insight of daily scenes of the so called "common people" in a city shaped from history and turmoil. I had in earlier years before that travelled extensively more or less all over China but never really seen how people lived beyond what you saw on the streets and countless of small gritty guest houses and "foreign hotels" which you sometimes shared with the locals when off the beaten track. I've always been a true believer in Mono-Chrome photography and Lu YanMin presented a way of how photography can transcend a seemingly dull and normal topic and scenes to something eye opening and beautiful. I have had his little photobook in my bookshelf ever since and always treasured it as one of my absolute favourites.

During the years I have seen that for me was real honest photography transform from an art or craft form to a pretty bland and overly produced fake limitless pixel awesomeness. I can only speak for myself and how I see the present photo scene and I can find some great stuff on various blogs and social networks but overall it's a rather dull endless row of stuff that seems to have not been thought through at all. I am to blame for this myself since I am as much as anyone else caught up in the craze, snapping off from the hip with no strings attached. I have come to suffered from something close to a photographic writers block for the last years. A freelance photographer's life and the ever tracking down, chasing and convincing stressed out and busy editors of jobs have just taken the fun and excitement out of photography. To keep it simple and strong has been overrun by stunning and perfect.  In a couple of weeks it has been 10 years since I picked up Lu's book ( it picked me up?) and it is finally sinking in that his way is the right way to pursue the art form that I have shaped my life around. I'm now in a situation where I can sit back a little and view from a new angle how to get this slowly sinking ship on the right keel again, and the path might very well be through a lesser known Chinese photographer and his work from his city and it's scenes. Lu's photography has a wide depth that attracts me and he used nothing but a 35mm prime lens to give a viewpoint of the human eye, how we see reality but often miss the individual universes surrounding our daily boring little lives. I bought the best 35mm prime lens I could afford, fixed it on my by now old workhorse and will set to work on a new personal project out of respect for what is for me real photography and of respect to a photographer that influenced me to take up from where I lost the eye in a critical moment.

"Lu Yuan Min's genius is that he ignores nothing."  

                                                            - Jiang Wei