Ikebukuro in October

Police officer, Ikebukuro, October 4, 2003: click for gallery

The above photo is from a new album of images I’ve just uploaded, photos that were taken in the Ikebukuro area of Tokyo over two sucessive weekends in October. (Truth be told, a few of the images have been shown before). Though I hesitate to draw any conclusions that will no doubt be betrayed by a new direction discovered oh, maybe tomorrow, I will draw your attention to the fact that all images but one feature human beings. This is not something I anticipated happening, but (for now) it’s definitely the direction things are going.

Perhaps it’s strange to remark about this at all, but just a few months ago you’d be hard-pressed to find very many people in my photos. Like I’m wont to do with a lot of things lately, I attribute this to Kaika, though to be honest I haven’t really thought about it enough to know whether in this case that’s warranted, or to fully explain how this might be so.

11 Replies to “Ikebukuro in October”

  1. Nice work. I especially like two pictures, the one of the old man bending over the garbage, and the one with the young men singing in the tunnel. definitely captures part of the modern essence of Tokyo. I have always found it difficult to take pictures of people, because I am shy. (though when I first started taking photos with my Yashika Twin Reflex back in 1972 I took lots of pictures of people, in black and white… perhaps it’s black and white that did it? Or the size of the camera? Or the fact that I looked *down* into the viewfinder, rather than directly at???).

    One observation…maybe it’s just my impression… it seems that many of the pictures tend to compose the people subjects directly in the center of the photos, often cutting off the subject. It’s a tendency I have, too, because of the attraction of the subjects’ eyes. But then, maybe you are aware of that already.

    Maybe I should save up for a medium format camera… I want to try black and white again!

  2. guys, thanks for the comments.

    butuki, thanks for your observation, it helps corroborate something that was pointed out to me by a friend re: another series of images I took recently, and something I’ve started to pay more attention to. I defintely have some issues with framing! At first, I thought perhaps it was the constricting nature (to me anyway) of the 80mm focal length (equivalent to a 50mm lens on 35mm cameras), but really what it amounts to is that because of my height (which is only 5’10 or 180cm, very average for an American), I’m often looking toward my subjects in this county at a slightly downward angle, and until realizing this I’d been compensating by keeping the camera level, cutting off people at the knees, and leaving quite a bit of room in the upper half of the photo. I don’t use a waist level finder on the Mamiya, which would perhaps alleviate this problem (but give me others :). It’s a problem I have with 35mm cameras too, even when I go to wider focal length lenses.

    I took some shots today purposely leaving the camera tilted down as I’m curious how those images will look, and whether they’ll look as strange as I somehow imagine they will.

    btw, with many folks jumping to digital slr’s, the used Medium Format market, especially in Japan, is very reasonable right now. Of course you could do b/w with a 35mm as well, though few things beat looking at a 120 film negative 🙂

  3. I’m wondering if it is the speed with which you take the photos, not giving yourself time to porperly position the camera, by getting level with the subjects. That’s my problem. I’m usually so embarrassed about taking a picture of a stranger that I try to get it over with before I have time to really look at the composition in the viewfinder. Since I do it very quickly, inevitably what I concentrate on is the eyes. They go right in the center, regardless of the rest of the body or the background. It’s the natural thing to do, because “the eyes are the soul”.

    Look again at your photos; nearly every one where the subject was in a postion to become aware of you the composition tends toward the head being in the center. Those where you seemed to feel more inconspicuous seem better composed. Perhaps just coincidence…

    If you stopped and took your time, however, your height shouldn’t really matter. All you have to do is adjust yourself according to the height of the subject, lowering or raising your camera and body accordingly. I know a fantastic people photographer (a student of mine who travels all over Southeast Asia photographing people) who will even crawl on the ground to get eye level with children. I’m not sure I could overcome my shyness enough to do this, but if I want great people pictures that’s what I have to do… It’s what I do with animals, where the eyes are just as important as with humans.

    Hope you don’t mind my analysis… just trying to help … and to reinforce my own development in photography and drawing.

  4. Just love these type of series … simply stunning; it says more about a part of the world than any ‘typical’ catalogue

  5. razzi-
    thanks for your kind words.

    to continue this…yes, it is possible that a certain self-conciousness or hesitancy towards the subject, their awareness (or pending awareness) of me, might be affecting me. in general, shooting with the medium format, which with the 645 gives me 15 shots to a roll, and using a handheld meter (my camera has no internal meter), i tend to work quite slow, and I also feel less shy than I do with my 35mm cameras. With 35mm cameras, I tend to shoot much more, with less thought, and even more self-consciousness, but that leads me to another aspect of this I’m still ruminating over …. (to be continued, somewhere 🙂

  6. All the Yashika pictures have been lost in oblivion… my father’s second wife was quite a jealous and vindictive person and so she decided to destroy all evidence of my family from before she was married to my father. This included old sepia photographs of when my parents were young. So nothing is left (except quite a bit of bitterness on my part).

    I did however start scanning some old b&w’s I took with my Pentax MX (my favorite camera until now, but stolen, along with 10 years of accumulated accessories! Ah well…) while I was in college. Take a look at the first scan on a recent post at my site. I’d love any critique you might be able to make.

  7. ps… I also want to cntact you about buying medium format cameras. I’ve not been around them for quite a while, so I don’t know the recommendations any more. Will get back to you in the next few days.

  8. I have really enjoyed looking at your b/w photos. I find it really tough to take pics of PEOPLE . I think there’s an art to making oneself unnoticable in the taking of the photos which to some degree overcomes my concerns about intrusion. None of your photos appeared to me to be intrusive. Obviously, I don’t know what your subjects may have said.

    Do you use b/w film and then scan it as opposed to using a digital camera? I find it much harder taking decent pics on a digital camera that the old SLR. But then I haven’t really tried as hard as I might!

  9. Coup-
    Thanks for your comments. I’m not sure I want to be unnoticeable. (Depends on the photo I guess). Yes, I’m using b/w film and then scanning the negatives, etc.

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