Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to travel and photograph throughout North America, Latin America and some of Europe but I knew Tokyo would be like nothing I had seen before.
When I first discovered that I would have the opportunity to explore this legendary city for eight days with my girlfriend I was both thrilled and overwhelmed. Eight days is not likely enough time to create a meaningful body of work, especially since we were there to sightsee. It was clear from the beginning that this was simply a trip to get a small taste of Japan and if I brought home one or two nice photos then that would be a bonus.
Considering Tokyo is home to over 13 million people, I had mentally prepared myself for the stress and energy of a place like Manhattan, but somehow I felt calm. Maybe it was the jet lag, maybe it was the soothing long drives through the Mojave desert the prior week. Either way, we were here, in Tokyo, Japan. It was love at first sight.
Our days were spent walking and exploring and trying to make sense of this ancient yet futuristic culture. We were completely out of our element, but from the moment we arrived, we agreed that the vibe was fascinating and surprisingly comfortable. This was my small glimpse into life on the other side of the planet.
Photographically, I find myself drawn towards daily life as it is in the streets. The small details of a cracked sidewalk, uncanny reflections that connect two separate worlds, or an intriguing gesture on one’s face as they contemplate life, or maybe they’re just thinking about whats for dinner. What drives people to live where they do? Or to leave? I’ve always been fascinated by the sheer number of people in this world, both past and present. So many stories, triumphs and heartbreaks. Our AirBNB was located 5 minutes from Shibuya Crossing, where every few minutes a sea of people crisscross through an open intersection. Each one filled with their own dreams and desires. However, I find myself drawn to individuals rather than crowds. Perhaps that’s my way trying to convey a story.
Several of these photographs were made within a moments notice without time to think, only to react. I suppose photography is nothing other than a response and reaction to what we see in our minds eye. This type of instinctual photography demands particular tools. The 35mm Summicron shines for me. I can focus the lens before the viewfinder meets my eye, simply by feel. I can photograph in a heartbeat thanks to my Leica.
The Leica M (Typ 240) is a robust tool. The placement of the viewfinder allows me to feel out the entirety of the scene, making it easier to make an educated choice on when to press the shutter. The simplicity of the M System allows me to forget about the use of a camera and lets me completely focus my attention on making a photograph.
I find it very difficult to summarize my time in this elegant city since I was only there for a short period. Japan still remains a mystery to me and I suppose if I had to make a note, I would say as with anywhere else, people seem pretty much the same. We want love & respect and we want to live our lives – wherever that may be.
About James B. Featherstone:
Born in 1984 in Canada. I made my first documentary film when I was 8 years old on a three week trip with my Dad across the vast United States. I am currently a full-time professional video editor & amateur photographer. I have several ongoing projects including a look into Latin America, photographed across Honduras, Cuba and Mexico with plans to venture further south into Brazil and Bolivia.