Visiting friends in exotic places makes travel that much sweeter but visiting a photography friend in a city as wicked as Tokyo is a whole other level of sweetness that I can’t describe. While in Tokyo a little over a year ago (yes, this post is embarrassingly late!), I had the chance to hang out with the very talented Dave Powell of Shoot Tokyo. Brought together by our love of Leica cameras, Dave treated me to a fantastic urban photo tour of one of the craziest cities on the planet.
I’ve never considered myself an official street photographer. I’m a travel photographer – documenting people, places and things while on the road. When I started traveling heavily for work while living in Europe, I could think of no better souvenir than capturing the scenes that moved me in a particular place. With a camera, each city becomes a canvas – lights and shadows, scenes and tableaus, faces and facades. I photographed everything that felt unusual, exotic and inspiring.
Dave takes city photography and pushes the boundaries by capturing people. The man is fearless. It was amazing to watch him walk up to complete strangers, smile and ask for permission to take their photographs. When they refuse, he finds a way to gently insist and a few minutes later the once shy subjects are posing and smiling for him as if in a fashion show. His fearlessness and in-your-face approach are inspiring. On this particular evening out in Shibuya he assigned me to go and photograph fifteen strangers. Strangers! It wasn’t an easy task and I didn’t get to fifteen exactly but I had a lot of fun trying!
What I learned:
- The more awkward you are, the more awkward your subjects will feel. Chillax and own it!
- It’s better to be direct and ask for permission to shoot someone than lurk around the corner trying to steal a shot. People can sense when they’re being stalked and most get
really annoyed and yell at youdon’t like it.
- Set your ISO and exposure ahead of time so you can shoot at a moment’s notice without having to fiddle with your settings.
- Don’t let (inevitable) rejection get you down. Shake it off and move on to your next target.
- Don’t be afraid to deliberately frame your subject. Position him in front of a grungy alley or in the middle of a busy street. Once someone has agreed to get their photo taken, they usually don’t mind being directed. Some will even enthusiastically pose themselves!
- Smile. Always smile!
Here are a few of my favorite shots:
A few days later, my brother and I visited the Asakusa district and I tried my hand at a few people photos again.
Japan was amazing. I can’t wait to go back.