"Koya Bound," @danrubin and I made a limited edition book about Japan's Kumano Kodo. More info in link:
A first selfie? Probably. 17 years ago. Self-portrait of the artist dying of a summer cold. My first real summer in Japan. I had moved into a ~$300/mo rent apartment in Nogata, down the Seibu Shinjuku Line a few stops from Takadanobaba. 7th floor. Huge balcony. Shared squat toilet. A bathtub you cranked to produce heat. Roaches galore. I didn’t yet understand the dangers of sleeping with a blasting air conditioner, decades old dirty filters, and the relentless humidity of a Tokyo summer. I think I gave myself a mild pneumonia. It was early August, I remember the moment vividly: I had just finished the first season of the Sopranos (back when you could change the region on your DVD player a few times), had been up all night with a fever and throbbing chest, and for some reason decided to wander onto my balcony in this hallucinatory dream state to assess the early morning landscape. We were the tallest building and the views out back were unobstructed. I always liked the jumble of Tokyo — it’s an ugly city but an ugly city with its own unique fingerprint. Show me a tiny square of any part Tokyo and it’s somehow instantly recognizable. Inspired, I plopped my Nikon FM3a down on the ledge, posed (??), and this is what came out. I recently moved and part of my self-contract was to touch everything I owned — every sheet of paper and object. Selfies inclusive.
The boys. No exaggeration to say these two fine gentlemen — @enriqueallen and @henretig — changed my life, made me a much better human. We lived together in a house in Palo Alto down a beautiful tree lined street, just a couple blocks from Steve Jobs, from late 2010 to early 2013. I had been living basically alone for a decade at that point, and then, suddenly, I was engulfed, literally, by a grand humanity. Hugs galore — so many hugs. Hugs in the morning, afternoon, goodnight hugs. Infinite hugs. Big fuckin’ bear hugs. Like, real, crush your chest with love hugs. The importance of hugs cannot be overstated. I remember thinking how long it had been since I had been hugged so much or so well. It’s a strange thing to recognize — a hug deficiency. But there it was — hugs. Hugs and discipline. These guys worked day and night, hunched over at the kitchen table, deep in their creative projects. Fueled primarily by hummus and soy milk, I watched them work and worked besides them. They taught me how to tackle big projects and even more importantly, how to hug. Thanks dudes. (Photo from a little reunion we had a couple months ago)
Sixteen years of taking this same picture in this same park, of this same tree, the weeping cherry, with this same group of gapers below, of this same man in the hat, of this same couple, of this same divorcee and widower, of this same collection of coats, with this same chill in the air, with this same belly full of picnic onigiri.
A life in cameras, seventeen years, chronologically. Top row: Digital, film film film. Bottom: All digital.
The first camera I blew my savings on was that goofy Sony Cybershot, 3.3mp, giant barrel, 10x digital zoom (oh boy!). This was back in 2000 when they took Sony’s proprietary memory stick. It whet the appetite but I quickly realized if I was going to take “real” photos I’d need something beefier. Taught myself photography reading photo.net five hours a day. Grabbed a nikon autofocus, 50mm 1.8, eventually down/upgrading to an FM3a manual (wonderful, wonderful machine), and then a Hassy over on the right there.
The the D70 arrived and Goodbye Film Forever. Gorgeous sensor, could use my old glass. Felt like the future in a way the Sony projected but didn’t deliver on. By this point I had been developing and printing photos in my apartment for years, and was more than happy to shed film and its attendant frustrations / complexities in favor of more quickly arriving at finished images.
From there, the GF1 and GX1, the x100t, and finally the Q and Monochrom. I realize film is having a resurgence but I can say with all my heart, I miss it not one iota. I know that’s an unpopular stance, but photographing alone, digitally, is complicated enough. Film is too seductive a siren for me to touch again. But I’m enjoying seeing everyone out there discover/rediscover and keep it alive.
Seventeen years, ten cameras, a billion shots taken or not, a collection of simple tools that grant permission to see the world.
Hakone Yumoto incoming. Guy sat before us was a full-on Densha Otaku, train geek, hopping over the seats to run out onto the platform at each stop to peek at the station, rushing back on as the doors shut (so says my travel companion @deejtokyo; I was only on for the last leg). Here he is studying the curvature of the tracks as we snake our way down the valley into the heart of Kanto hotspring land.
Train geekdom runs deep, and why not when you live in a country that has been sliding ultra-fast cabooses across a mountainous landscape since 1964 (when the first bullet train took off; thanks old Olympics!). No deaths by accident on the shinkansen (although an old man self immolated last year or the year before in protest of something) — a downright miracle of technology and tenacity considering how seismic this place is.
Back to our otaku: You can see there’s an attendant leaning against the wall in front of him, blocking his view out of the forward window (we were in the first car). The densha otaku’s despair was palpable, but he seemed to lack the social skills required to gently ask him to, you know, shimmy a bit off to the side. Anyway, the ride was almost over, and the walk was set to begin.
Five-point-five million vending machines in Japan. More vending machines per capita, per square kilometer, than any other country in the world. Vending machines most famously in the 80s and 90s (although largely apocryphally) for used school girl underwear. Vending machines most strangely, now, today, in this current world, for cigarettes, just a few bucks a pack. Vending machines that spit out piping hot cans, cans you can’t crush in the hand or underfoot, steel cans of black coffee, teas, milk teas, milk coffees. Vending machines vending tiny copies of vending machines. And vending machines along the Tokaido ancient highway.