Category Archives: Photography

Ginza

Tokyo, Japan. May 2014.

Sometimes we forget to be tourists in the places we live. Having visitors helps. On this occasion, we ventured into Ginza, headed for the Laduree Tea Room, but arrived too early and had to wait outside a bit before we could go in. The waiting was exceptional, as the day was clear and temperate and given to people-watching.

I took this photograph in the window of a department store. A line of brightly coloured pedestrians makes its way through the monochrome of sand-dune beach-brush, a black-and-white couple sits on steps imagined from the crosswalk zebra and a spectrum of silver sand spills out into the city streets under facades of glass and brick and the signage of the city while an icon of fashion turns the other cheek. Even as the spring becomes the summer, it’s all about the layers.

The Trees and the Chill

Outside Krakow, Poland. December 2008.

An upcoming staff and parent art exhibit at our school has given me good occasion to have a look back through some of the older photographs I’ve taken, but not shared or printed.

I took these photographs on the morning of New Year’s Eve in 2008. We were visiting Poland for the first time and we wanted to visit Auschwitz. We didn’t want to be part of a big tour; we wanted to go more quietly, so we hired a private guide who recommended that we leave at from Krakow at dawn. It was one of those mornings where the clear blue skies and warm sunlight made me think it should feel warm, but the air was so crisp and clean and cold that it froze the inside of my nose with every breath.

And that was the contrast of the day. The road to Auschwitz was watched over by stands of trees that seemed full and sparse at the same time; the early light cut between them, warming their bark and green needles and moss, and stretched out their shadows to define them in hyper-reality. And yet there was also an emptiness about them, the space between so palpable and full of absence. That negative space pervaded the camps at Birkenau, but where the trees were draped in the daybreak’s radiance, the remains of Birkenau were chilling in every way.

There was a wreath somewhere along the way. I’m not even sure that I saw it as our car sped by, but my camera caught it, its bright flowers aflame in the interstice. I don’t know why that wreath was there, or who placed it, or when, or whether it was marked by ceremony or if it was just set down, unnoticed by all the cars racing toward their imposed importances beyond the vanishing points of the hills and roads. But it’s frozen there now in a photograph at least, a testament of someone’s loss that without specific reference, without a name or story of how and why, becomes symbolic of all the losses I can’t imagine in those woods, along those roads. And more than that, it leaves me considering that only where love survives can we really remember.

Carousel Cherub

Florence, Italy. August, 2008.

Went looking through the archives today and stumbled upon this. There are a lot of photographs from this period that I took and meant to share and never really got around to it.

I imagine there is a land somewhere, populated by the things we meant to do but didn’t, a wind that whispers the things we meant to say, where lost orphaned socks wash up on the banks of the laundry river and keys dangle like dew from the laden branches of trees. A land divided into provinces: the county of regret and the territory of missed opportunity, and perhaps, behind high impenetrable walls, a small but triumphant fiefdom of things-we-meant-to-say-but-it-turned-out-way-better-that-we-didn’t.

The beautiful thing about the land we never got around to, though, is that we can still visit, at least some of the time. I plan to go back soon. I’ll let you know what I find.

Shimoda Surf

Shimoda, Japan. March 2014.

Yokohama is on the sea, it’s true, but there’s sea and then there’s sea.

We took the train this weekend, down to the bottom of the Izu peninsula, to Shimoda, a city in a small town, a place more the size of the one I grew up in, than the one where I currently live.

It felt like sliding into an old pair of jeans, the ones with the frayed hems and the paint-drops and the many-times-laundered stains of a life, the small (unfashionable) tears at the knees. Not respectable jeans for wearing out, but the ones you change into when you’re home and have nothing to prove and know you can stay a while.

I grew up near beach towns. Something about their off-season solitude and in-season crush that makes beach towns themselves ephemeral, permanently temporary. Places where the human endeavours aspire to good-enough-for-now and perfection is left to nature, and the time saved between is spent in lazy appreciation of now, before we pack up and drive home with the sand still in our eyelashes.

I was a windsurfer once, but these days the lick of the wind on my face is pleasure enough, and to sit and squint my eyes and read the swells and watch the surfers dance along the break.

After the Typhoon, Part II

Yokohama, Japan. September 2013.

As is turns out, we slept through typhoon 26 in the safety of our well-engineered apartment tower. We woke in the morning to clear blue skies. On the right, a brilliant rainbow sprouted from the cloud-capped shoulder of Mt. Fuji. On the left, a daunting wall of grey rain and clouds hovered over the bay. I wasn’t sure if we had missed the typhoon or if it was just about to arrive.

Before long, we learned that the worst of the storm passed through a couple of hours earlier, between 5 and 6 am, leaving only the uncommonly clear skies of an atmosphere scrubbed zealously clean.

But elsewhere in Japan, Typhoon 26 caused landslides that killed at least 17 people. It is a strange and heavy thing, to sleep restfully through something others will never awake from.

These are the last photos from after Typhoon 18, the ones that I took with my regular camera. The wake of the storm, the day laid to rest.

After the Typhoon, Part I

Yokohama, Japan. September 2013.

We are expecting a typhoon tomorrow. Typhoon Wipha, number 26. A big one. A once-in-ten-years kind of blow-down throw-down. Apparently the last time a storm of this magnitude came through, they had to pick up the front gate of our school down the street from the parking lot of the gymnasium. School has been cancelled, we bought some groceries and are battened down for the night.

There was another typhoon, number 18, in September. In its wake, the particulates of industry were washed out of the air, nature’s version of high-definition clarity. The windows were covered in dried-in-place drops of salt sea-brine, and as the sun set, the colors lit up a cloud-painted sky.

The Night Market

Chiang Mai, Thailand. February 2011.

There is an energy about night markets that is simultaneously soothing and invigorating to me. A rush of things in suspended time. For me, this photograph captures that. Something soft, something kinetic at the same time.