A Day at the Doujunkai

Uenoshita Doujunkai
Click the photo for a slideshow.

The Dojunkai Apartments : The
Beginning of Apartment Living

 The current mainstream steel reinforced
concrete apartments that were built prior to
World War II are called Dojunkai apartments.
The Dojunkai was a foundation established
following the Great Kanto Earthquake to help
victims in need of shelter. It was an external
body of the Interior Ministry and was funded
by contributions from within Japan and
overseas. The Dojunkai supplied 12,000
housing units, including 2,500 apartments,
between 1926 and 1941. All of the
apartments were reinforced concrete structures
that placed a premium on earthquake
resistance and most of the properties were
three stories in height. In addition to having
proper electricity, plumbing and gas, each of
the units was equipped with flush toilets. At
the time they were built, these housing units
were well known and admired for their
leading-edge conveniences and technologies
such as elevators, steam heaters, telephones
and baths. The aforementioned comforts
proved to be very popular despite the
concern that the apartment style of housing
might not be well accepted as a part of
Japanese lifestyle.

Quoted from http://xrl.us/oq6bk

A Day at the Doujunkai

Uenoshita Doujunkai
Click the photo for a slideshow.

The Dojunkai Apartments : The
Beginning of Apartment Living

 The current mainstream steel reinforced
concrete apartments that were built prior to
World War II are called Dojunkai apartments.
The Dojunkai was a foundation established
following the Great Kanto Earthquake to help
victims in need of shelter. It was an external
body of the Interior Ministry and was funded
by contributions from within Japan and
overseas. The Dojunkai supplied 12,000
housing units, including 2,500 apartments,
between 1926 and 1941. All of the
apartments were reinforced concrete structures
that placed a premium on earthquake
resistance and most of the properties were
three stories in height. In addition to having
proper electricity, plumbing and gas, each of
the units was equipped with flush toilets. At
the time they were built, these housing units
were well known and admired for their
leading-edge conveniences and technologies
such as elevators, steam heaters, telephones
and baths. The aforementioned comforts
proved to be very popular despite the
concern that the apartment style of housing
might not be well accepted as a part of
Japanese lifestyle.

Quoted from http://xrl.us/oq6bk

A couple of new sets

(For the impatient, you can jump straight to the new sets: Angel and Rebel. Do come back afterwards though.)Eri

If you’ve been following my Flickr account, you will have noticed a preponderance of new photos, mostly titled “Eri.”

Eri is Erica, my new model and as some have suggested, perhaps my new Muse. Erica is a girl I met a few weeks ago, when she came along when I was shooting her friend, Mariko. At first I was a bit thrown off that she came along—when I set out to shoot someone new, I put a lot of thought into how I’m going to try shoot that person, pose them, bring out things about them.

In Mariko’s case, I’d met her and asked to do her photo. She’s quite busy with her work, so it took several adjustments of schedules to find a couple hours to shoot. Mari’s a beautiful girl, with distinctive features and wonderful, kinky-curly hair.

Mariko
To shoot Mari, I wanted to concentrate on just shooting her, not have to amuse some tagalong friend who might get bored and suddenly decide that the two of them could be having a much better time somewhere else, so I told Erica to jump in for a few pictures.
With Mari, I had thought about how I would put her into the frame, how I’d position her and pose her and how to get her to relax and show the camera the spark that I saw when I first noticed her. It’s a lot of work finding that moment, finding the right light and angle, making sure your lens is focusing and you haven’t filled up your camera’s memory card. You need to do that much to get a good shot and it’s the kind of preparation you need to have out of the way in case The Gods decide to bless you with something better than good, the elusive Great Shot.
I had Erica take off her hat, I had her and Mari move to where the light was good and started shooting a few fun pictures, not thinking they’d be anything but snapshots.

How wrong I was.
Of course I could see that Erica was a good looking girl, but there are a million beautiful girls in Tokyo, both Japanese and foreign. A beautiful girl in person can be quite unremarkable when photographed, after all—being photogenic has little to do with how you look. Finding a photogenic face is a remarkable, rare occurrence, like seeing a shooting star on a cold November night.There’s a simple way to tell how photogenic a person is: Take their picture. Sometimes you see it in the photo when you have gone looking for it, but other times, it surprises you. This time, I looked at the snapshots of Erica on the back of my camera and felt my insides do a flip. She looked like an actress whose name I couldn’t quite place.
That day, my camera fell in love with Eri.

I quickly arranged to start shooting more of her. We’ve gotten together twice now, meeting at my little studio space for a few hours at a time.Erica’s a girl, a sweet, down-to-earth girl, who effortlessly produces looks that ranged from sultry and dangerous to virginal and innocent. One moment she’s a leather-clad biker chick swigging bourbon from the bottle, another moment she’s the sweetest thing you’ve ever spent a Sunday morning whispering across your pillow with.With a change of the lights, she’s a prewar movie star, perhaps young Lauren Bacall or Veronica Lake with peek-a-boo bangs, or even Ocassia, the allegorical personification of opportunity, known by her unruly forelock.
As I shoot her, I can barely keep up—It’s a constant game of focus and frame, check the exposure, check the lights, reframe, recompose and wait for those wonderful moments where something electric happens. “Hold that, don’t move,” I’ll say, as I struggle to keep up, “no, wait, forget it—that’s better!” as she unleashes yet another killer smile, or her eyes burn intensively into the camera. She does this all without pretense or forethought—when she catches herself at it, I invariably wind up with four or five frames of her easy laughter. Shooting her is a delight, an exhausting, wonderful escape from reality.
I hope you’ll pardon all of this fawning, but it’s to let you all know why I’m spending all my time shooting her, rather than roaming the nighttime streets stealing shots of gangsters. Frankly, I’d gotten bored of my photos, uninspired by re-hashing old themes, the same ideas. I would send hours going over frame after frame of the same old photos, trying to wring some tiny bit of the old feeling from them, but it just wasn’t happening.
Now, it’s happening. Where I would before let roll after roll go unprocessed or processed and ignored, now I savor every batch. Before, for every five hundred photos I would shoot, I’d get one or two that I liked, which isn’t bad, as the photographers reading this know. Now, I easily get twenty or thirty from those five hundred. I wake up at 4:30 or 5:00 each morning after the shoot and start importing and processing the photos, sorting, adjusting, cropping them, arranging them into themes and exporting them to galleries. It’s a great feeling to have such great material to work with for a change.
Of course you may be reading this and thinking “Jim’s in love again” and in a way, you’d be right, but I’m not in love with a girl, I’m in love with the image of a girl. Erica’s become a friend and I enjoy the time we spend together immensely, but the girl I might talk to over a couple of beers is not the same as this wonderful fictional creature we create with a camera, when a white muslin backdrop transforms a night in my shabby little studio into lazy day in a Manhattan penthouse.
Eri-2
So I hope you’ll indulge me in this little diversion and perhaps enjoy this bit of fantasy with me. I haven’t gotten the photos I want to get yet, so I’ll keep shooting as long as Erica is having fun.
In the mean time, I hope you’ll like seeing a couple of galleries I threw together. The first is called “Angel” and shows some of the sweeter, softer images. The second, I’ve nicknamed “Rebel“, a fun set done while playing with props like my old leather jacket, aviator sunglasses and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, done while blasting David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel.”

On Men and Cameras

On a private forum today, user Ispistole posted the following under the title “Chickensoup for the Self-Doubting Photographer: The DP Review Streetphotography Thread”:

I have a love/hate affair with DP Review. Tech-heads obsessing over the minutiae of cameras that, often, don’t even exist (Canon G10). Or, if they do – say, the Sigma DP1, they’re already demanding the next model and what they want to see on it.

And then there’s the flaming and brand-dissing. Take the new Panasonic Lumix LX3, an interesting camera in itself. I’ve been following the hysteria over on the Panasonic thread at DP Review, as they pull the specs apart, decrying the sensor, the zoom, the noise reduction, even before the cameras been officially released.

But what amuses me most of all, is when these gear-heads post their pics. I mean, I know we all doubt ourselves and our abilities at times, but when I see this I sure feel a lot happier with my own stuff.

Perhaps they should spend more time learning how to use their cameras, and less time discussing the perfect camera. Just a thought.

*edit* Worryingly, on several it looks like they’re stalking human game rather than taking candid shots.

Sometimes, when I’m replying to these, I get caught up in the subject. Here’s what I just wrote in reply:

The reasons for forums like that run older and deeper than you might imagine. It’s a question of impotence.

(Uh-oh, I feel a rant coming on…)

Most men buy cameras because their wives won’t let them have guns. (Though single men often own both.)

They buy them, not to actually *use* them, but to have them “just in case.” Just as buying a gun won’t make you a marksman, buying a camera won’t make you a photographer. That takes practice and skill.

Too often, men buy them for that moment of empowerment that comes when you stand at the counter, fondling it before finally telling the clerk “I’ll take it” with a knowing nod and the clerk’s acknowledgment of “Excellent choice, sir. I can either box it all up, or load it for you if you prefer to try it out on the street today…” with a sly wink.

That feeling of power quickly dissipates for most when they see how bad they are at doing anything significant with their purchase and they slip into an impotent cycle of both defending their choice to their male friends by reciting specifications and talking about others who did significant things with the same gear while guiltily perusing magazines and catalogs, planning their next upgrade.

Of course, they may carry either in the glove compartment of their car and take it out for some fun shooting on weekends, but in both cases, rarely does the outing result in a good trophy.

It’s that cycle of frustration that causes both guns and cameras to be pulled out and finally used most often at holidays and family gatherings.

The gear is similar, as well. They tend to be well-made, precision instruments, machined to close tolerances. They are often the nicest object a man will own.

Compare, for instance, a Leica and a Walther PPK. Both are finely machined things made in Germany. They’re a pleasure to hold, load and fire. Small and discreet, they are a textural delight of satin chrome and knurled grips. (I happen to own both. They’re really quite similar.)
Walther Walther
Others prefer the biggest, loudest thing they can afford, with a huge barrel or lens. It’s for walking into a situation and letting everybody know who’s boss. Still, you’re just as unlikely to bag a good trophy, which you’ll probably blame that on some failure of your gear, not the fact that you don’t know how to operate it with any skill.

Women, of course, also own and use both cameras and guns, but they’re far more likely to carry something sensible that they can slip easily into their purse. Smith and Wesson market a line of handguns under the LadySmith brand. A small, but powerful 357 magnum, it even holds one fewer rounds than those marketed to men. Small, unassuming cameras are too numerous to mention, but if you visit your local shop, they’ll probably have more than a couple in pink anodized aluminum.
Consider that, for most of the last century, the camera most popular with women had only the tiniest of lenses and was referred to as a “Box Camera.” Diane Arbus’ camera was a mysterious thing called a twin lens reflex, a very feminine apparatus, the features and functions of which are a mystery to those who haven’t undertaken a clinical study of its morphology, or ar least taken the time to examine one up-close.

Still, on occasion, you’ll see a woman with either a “Man’s Camera” or a “Man’s Gun.” These women hold a certain dangerous fascination for men, they’re beautiful, they’re powerful and they’re dangerous. If Lara Croft or Emma Peel carried cameras, it’d be either a gunmetal Leica strapped to her hip, or an SLR with a huge telephoto, slung over their shoulder like Bonnie Parker’s Tommy Gun.
French Photojournalist Catherine Leroy Patty Hearst as Tania

Catherine Leroy and Patty Hearst
Seeing a female photographer with a couple of battered rangefinders gives me the same thrill I got as a young boy when images of a teenaged Patty Hearst flashed across the television with her long hair, cocked beret and sub-machine gun, standing in front of the flag of the Symbionese Liberation Army, making my G.I. Joe toy seem like the impotent little doll he was.

Girls like that put men in their place—not only do we imagine them getting their trophies, they can drink us under the table and pee standing up. They don’t get weak-kneed and dewy when things get heated, they get girl boners.

So it’s best to avoid tech sites like DP Review and better to spend that time carefully honing your craft and practicing a cool, James Bond/James Nachtwey-like nonchalance. You don’t, after all, see those guys stroking off to equipment catalogs…