My father once used to brag about all the countries he went to with the Army. Lots of those new people my father encountered wanted to kill him and his buddies but thats the nature of traveling with the military. My travel adventures, on the other hand, (Central America, Mexico, Asia, Europe, etc…) rarely took the form of digging trenches and eating c-rations, although many of the things I ate made my father’s MREs into candy. Dog, anyone?
My first encounters with Tokyo were absolutely amazing…nothing could have prepared my little shallow San Antonio mind for the mind blowing excitement of Tokyo. Bright lights, big city! So many people whose faces were so different than mine, fashion, trains, buildings, signs written in Japanese and none of it I could read! It was all so different. One of the most striking facets of Tokyo life was the barrage of advertisements: from neon billboards toting the newest J-Pop stars, to beer, to tea, to cell phones…endless amounts of selling in every imaginable place. And everything was larger than life ads. Huge photos pasted on walls, subway halls, hoisted on building, gleaming with that language I still can’t understand. So unique. My first photo travails with my Nikon allowed me to capture and record human reaction with such advertisements. How small and little we are compared to these larger than life ads.
Shinjuku Station, 1997
I snapped this beer ad shot in Shinjuku Station and at the time it was the “cats meow.” The ad for Suntory beer features a Japanese baseball player named Kiyohara. The sign translates roughly into “It tastes good…how about one?” “Supah Mah gu nam Duur eye! (Super Magnum Dry–I had to do the accent.)
At the time, I though I couldn’t have taken a better photo. The timing, emptiness…the image itself growled back at me. I though I knew so much about photography and myself and I was ready to launch a career. But as I now work on a new portfolio showcasing images from Tokyo over a 10+ year experience, I quiet a different story and view.
While editing and choosing new images, I came across the original negatives (YES NEGATIVES!) and I re-edited the image. There were so many different angles I didn’t blink an eye at and actually forgot about the scene.
My editings led me to see a variation of different scenes. Different angles, different thoughts. An unfamiliar look at what I though was one of my better images.
Mysterious blurs, people ghosting in the shot. I wasn’t sure why my original “cat’s meow” doesn’t strike me any longer but maybe its my growth as a person, my experiences, all the things that have made me into a professional. I don’t know.
My hero shot would now take a back seat to the others I think duly take the winning slot as a moment.
June 2008, Shinjuku Station
Oddly enough, my last trip to Tokyo this past May produced a very familiar image. It is not as if I though to frame this image as such but the poster, the look on the model, and the motion of the blurry Japanese girl truly captures a moment in Shinjuku Station Essentially its the same shot as my original. Different time, different medium, different me. Yet something struck me again about my life and how experience has defined me in my mid 30s’.
I remembered an amorous letter I wrote long ago during a trip away which I prosed the following: “…the only thing I can share with you while I am so far away is the moon… as it will always be the same… no matter where you are…the moon is always the same…” or some insane dribble about something or another. I doubt the validity of what I wrote back then but it made sense but it was the musings of a young romantic. A romantic before the reality of life took hold. (What? Charm can’t get me through life?) I though U2, rum, and a dirty school bus trip through Nicaragua defined it all.
I guess what I am trying to get at is no matter how much I have changed as a person, I am still like the moon…meaning I am still me. I haven’t changed nor has my view changed on what I see. Experiences have made me different but I am still me. I still see what I do and I capture what I want. Do I ever miss photos when I don’t have a camera, do I miss moments? Sure but it doesn’t matter cause I wasn’t there to capture it.
So whether or not my moon musing holds water, I guess I do still am the same, see the same and shoot the same, sharing the same views as I once did with someone so long ago. Maturity and vision could be one in the same but then again…