An exploration of color, form, and motion—Chromodynamics is a personal project centered around street photography in the urban expanse of Tokyo. The term ‘chromodynamics’ originates in quantum physics and refers to the interactions between the particles within protons and neutrons, known as quarks. I chose this title partly because of a metaphor—albeit a tenuous one—connecting quantum physics and street photography: the observer effect. In physics, particularly quantum physics, the observer effect is the inability to measure a system without thereby changing it in some way. In a similar way, the act of street photography changes the system (the streets and their inhabitants). In street photography the observer is as much a part of the scene as the observed.
A single night in Tokyo, from dusk till dawn, is the focus of this (as yet incomplete) project. The Tokyo metropolis is a stage for a multitude of disparate and interconnected stories and narratives, many of them taking place in the dark hours when the neon lights fill the skies and the urban denizens enter a state of revelry and inebriation. It is this nocturnal dance which these images are meant to portray—the places, the people, and the wonders of the Tokyo night. Though the photographs are taken over a number of years, they are meant to span a single quintessential night, archetypal of all the nights that bridge the gap from dusk till dawn in the urban expanse of Tokyo.
Contrails against a painted sky, crows circling urban spires, rooftops cast in neon glow.... Vaporized Memories is a series of images evoking nostalgia for a time that never was. The sun sets on the techno-utopia of the past—a future path no longer visible from our present, only existing in our memories, ephemeral like water vapor in the sky.
L'appel du Vide
I find myself on the rooftops over Ikebukuro one summer night in the Tokyo metropolis. The streets hum 15 stories below my feet, rooftop machinery whines around me, and a starless, light-polluted slate grey sky hangs low above my eyes, seemingly so close as though I could reach out and touch it. In this moment I feel serenity amidst the chaos of the city. A love affair with Tokyo’s rooftops swells within me and lulls me back again and again after that first foray into the hidden vertical dimension of the metropolis. That first enchantment was the seed for my deep love of urban exploration, particularly above the streets. The open spaces on the rooftops—the voids—entice and intoxicate me. This is the call of the of the void, or ‘L’appel du Vide.’ It is what draws me up and leads me to capture the visual impact of those highest reaches of the urban expanse.
A collection of quintessential moments in Japanese modern living, 'Life, Japan’ is my take on the Japanese day-to-day. Taking place primarily in the urban centers of Tokyo and Kyoto, the series nonetheless attempts to convey a view of Japanese life that is in a sense universal, even bordering on the cliché. By my own admission this view of tradition and modernity in Japan is a romanticized western view, and so the title of the series takes on an almost ironic sense—as though kimonos and sumo wrestlers were all there is to ‘Life, Japan.’
This work may belie the complex interplay of traditional culture and the rapid modernization that has consumed Japan in the last 50 years. However, there is some value, to me, in romanticizing the simplified view—one of a world of kimono-clad women and suit-wearing salarymen going about their daily lives in a serene techno-utopia in touch with its traditional Shinto roots. One can dream.
Over the last decade Halloween has become a new and unofficial festival in Tokyo. During the last few days of October, thousands upon thousands of costumed revelers make their way to the various nightlife and party districts of Tokyo—the most popular of which is Shibuya. The festivities have swelled to the point that police presence is necessary to keep the crowds of ghouls, pop culture references, and scantily clad women in check.
This series of photographs is an ongoing project, beginning during the Halloween of 2016. My aim is to capture the raw debauchery, insobriety, crapulence, and raucous behavior—and the police response to it all—taking place on the nights preceding and culminating in Halloween each year in the streets of Shibuya.
Looking up from the narrow crevasses that snake their way through the back streets of Tokyo’s major boroughs, one sees a tiny sliver of sky—bright sunlight filtering down to the depths of the city much as it would fall to the understory of a jungle. Here in the bowels of the city, life is scarce as on the floor of a tropical rainforest, limited to cockroaches and rats. Humans only venture to these depths to dispose of trash or to take smoke breaks. The walls close in on those who venture into these narrow corridors behind the glimmering façades of the Tokyo metropolis, evoking a distinct claustrophobia and a yearning for the light glimmering down from the rooftops ten floors above.
A collection of images capturing the motion and chaos of the Tokyo metropolis. The traffic and the flying highways and overpasses of the urban infrastructure conspire to perform a ballet of light and motion. The images are meant to evoke a sense of movement of the viewer in addition to the flux of the subjects portrayed in the images. Nothing is static in the Tokyo metropolis.
The city captured in one image over a span of time—Quantum States is meant to portray the ephemeral and intangible essence of the city at night. The urban expanse is a superposition of all its structures, inhabitants, and vehicles at any one moment in time. The urban lights stretch to create a simulacrum of a wave function, a mere impression of the reality of the metropolis. The impression can be spherical, linear, orthogonal, or hyperbolic, depending on the motion of the camera.
Zipping through the Japanese countryside without the slightest vibration, one can’t help but marvel at the Japanese bullet train—sleek, efficient, always on time. But what is gained—convenience and mobility—must be paid for with the loss of something else, something intangible. Gradually, the spaces between the major ports of call for the bullet trains become a no man’s land, a non-space for the traveler, mere filler, the obstacle that must be begrudgingly traversed to get to the good stuff.
Sitting on the train, moving along and 270 kilometers per hour through verdant countryside, rice-paddy-filled valleys, and tunnels hewn through mountains, I contemplated this notion, and so this project, titled 270KPH, was born. It is a meditation on experiencing the transience of the great swaths of land, both rural and urban, lying largely ignored along the main arteries of the Japanese bullet train.
Some projects are born out of an obsession with a specific subject or concept. In this case, it was a gradually brewing interest in the forms of bicycles. Bicycles for the most part have geometries that can boiled down to a few simple shapes—two triangles, two circles, with some doodads attached here and there. Bicycles also exist in a nearly infinite variety of colors. These two visual traits, their common morphology and chromatic diversity—as well as their ubiquity—led me down a rabbit hole of visual exploration. Over time, I also came to notice that some bicycles end up parked in environments that sympathize with the character of the bike, whether that be visually or in a narrative sense. My interested grew into an obsession as time went on and I couldn’t stop photographing bicycles, of which there is no shortage in Tokyo, no matter where I went. These images are the fruits of this obsession.
Human cities are living, breathing organisms. They grow, evolve, and shed their skins. Urban Skin is a project attempting to capture the accumulated layers of urban organic life on the surfaces of the city. Overtime, small effects—graffiti, stickers, weathering, erosion, abrasion, and even shadows and light—build up on the buildings and objects strewn about the metropolis. This is the city’s skin. The skin is ever-changing, being shed and replenished over time, just like real skin. As this process continues, unique tableaus sprout up around the urban expanse and they are each in themselves works of art. These scenes are the subjects of the Urban Skin project.
Humans Among Them
The Japanese metropolis is vast. Whether its Tokyo or Osaka, the city is filled with skyscrapers towering over the streets. The architectural design of Japanese cities leads to many buildings exuding a cold and monolithic mood. And yet, among these imposing structures are the human inhabitants of the city. They are small and insignificant compared to their environment. Their human form stands in start contrast against the impersonal geometry of the urban expanse.
Nikon — Cutting through the Chaos
Nikon Europe approached me in 2017 to shoot a spread of iconic images from Tokyo, the birthplace of Nikon, for the company’s centennial. The concept was deceptively simple: cutting through the chaos. That is, use a range of Nikon telephoto zoom lenses to find moments of calm and clarity amidst the bustle and commotion of the Tokyo metropolis. This simple notion took me on a photographic journey throughout the metropolis over the span of a few weeks.
Though I shoot with Nikon gear myself, I was loaned the latest and greatest kit from Nikon Japan. Armed with a Nikon D5 and a bag of lenses (as well as a Nikon D500 and the at the time as-yet-unreleased Nikon D7500) I set to shooting the city, in which I’ve made my home for the past decade, with a new vision. The project stretched my imagination and skill in a direction I have not gone before. Primarily, shooting street photography at focal lengths often well over 100mm was something of a foreign concept to me. However, in the end the results speak for themselves.
It was a pleasure and an amazing opportunity to be able to work on such a project at the behest of a legend in the imaging industry. In the end, the team from Nikon Europe also created a series of videos, starring yours truly, in which I talk about my experience shooting with the Nikon cameras and glass. You can also read a write up the Nikon Europe site—Cutting through the Chaos.