Recent works – family snaps

Let me also share some of my recent works.

First up, it’s Yukiko and Hiro. Back in 2011, this couple asked me to photograph when they tied the knot. We had fun photographing them before they were officially married, shooting on the typical Melbourne graffiti lane ways, then ‘just married’ couple on Melbourne street, before ending up on the tram restaurant. Check out some of the photos here. This time, I was asked to photograph them with their first baby, Sota-kun.

2013-04-20_Sota

2013-04-20_Sota

2013-04-20_Sota

2013-04-20_Sota
Next up, this is also a family I’ve photographed a few times in the past. I photographed Eisuke-kun for the first time when he was still a new born baby of one month back in early 2011 (photos here). Then the parents, Kumiko and Keisuke, have asked me to photographed them again when Eisuke just turned 1 (photos here). This is the first time we meet in the hot Osakan summer, and instead of shooting in their store or out in the park on a humid day, they suggested their favourite aquarium, ‘Kaiyukan’. They have annual membership and visit the place quite frequently. It makes sense to record the growth of their son in a place that has been a part of his life so far.

 

Eisuke-Kaiyukan-2013-07

Eisuke-Kaiyukan-2013-07

Eisuke-Kaiyukan-2013-07

Eisuke-Kaiyukan-2013-07

 

 

As you can see, my approach to family photography is candid snaps using natural light, not formal portraiture.  I believe  people will show their natural, ‘real’ expression in such a set up, and I am able to capture the way they look, as their loved ones know them.

If you like your family and loved ones photographed in your family home, favourite hangout, or just at family milestone events, please enquire by email, including brief description of what you want photographed, date start/end time, location and your contact details (phone number). I can produce an enlarged print, photobook or any other format that you wish.

 

2013-07-24 12.04.54

 

Haru-chan

Haru-chan 2 December 2012

Family/baby candid portrait is also something I really enjoy doing for my clients. I had a chance to photograph this beautiful girl for the second time, for good friends of mine. Last time, Haru-chan was crying every time daddy came to pick her up. But it seems his effort has finally paid off and now she is daddy’s little princess!

Haru-chan 2 December 2012

Shhhh… now she’s fallen asleep. How pretty is her soft skin glow in the soft light from the window…

Haru-chan 2 December 2012

Haru-chan 2 December 2012

What a beautiful family. Thank you, Kuni and Tin, for allowing me to photograph you with your beautiful daughter!

 

Oh, one last photo, while we’ve got Haru-chan…

Haru-chan 2 December 2012

Thank you for being nice to Uncle YT, too, Haru-chan! Looking forward to seeing you again soon.

Mirai and Sora

I took a short trip to Japan last week to meet those two beauties. When I saw my cousin in Paris last December, they were inside a huge bulk on her belly. Now Mirai and Sora are healthy twin babies smiling back at me. I am excited at the thought of how much fun they will bring to the family. We live on the opposite ends of the world, in Europe and in Australia, but I intend to come visit from time to time!

Look at that gorgeous, seductive smile! Girls are always girls, from the moment they are born!

At the same time, they demand your attention, or all hell breaks loose! (And this started while she was in my left arm – with right arm not looking after her but my camera…)

Daddy sings a football fan song. The girls are all kicking and screaming, literally!

But mummy, she’s a true blue Osakan. Hence the gift from my brother and I… the uniform and towel for the baseball team of the region, Hanshin Tigers. They sleep comfortably. Whichever path they choose, the twins are likely to be famous sport girls somewhere.

See you again soon, Mirai and Sora!

Eisuke 1 year on

How quickly time does fly! While visiting Osaka in the beginning of the year, I was asked to photograph Eisuke and his parents, 1 year on since our last photo shoot (which is here). The family kindly agreed to share the photos with you, here on this blog.

He was just a tiny thing, but look how he’s grown in just one year. I am amazed!

Putting hands together to the family alter, learning the manners and customs is an important part of growing up.

Grandma loves any excuse for spending some time with Eisuke.

It was pretty cold out, but we shot some in the shop, back in the yard, in the house and around to the shop again. The time passed so quickly before we knew it. We parted with promise to do it again. We’ll share that with you, too.

In the meantime, here’s a hello from Eisuke, Mum and Dad!

Just the way you are

That was one of my favourites in the college years. I used to hum along to it as Billy Joel sang his romantic message to his (former) wife through my walkman’s headphones. Maybe I love the words so much, but I cannot explain any other way to describe my philosophy towards photograhing people. I just love you just the way you are, and that is what my photography captures.

This post is lots of words, but if you don’t mind it, please read on:

Mixi is a popular Japanese social network site. On the main page after log in, for the past few weeks I always see the same ad on the right hand side. It is an ad of the lip sticks called ‘Rouge Automatique’, with a slider on the side that reminds me of those ’80s big music stereo component and their equaliser sliders. Anyhow, I have problem with this photo, the one that is on my face as I log on every day.

Rouge Automatique 広告
Mixi にいつも表示される広告

The first word that comes to my mind is ‘ooh, what a fake!’. Sure, MAYBE, she actually looks like this. Maybe she actually has those deep true-blue eyes. If that is the case, I’d say, that is a fake-looking face. In any case, it is quite obvious that this ad was not made for Japan market. You don’t find women with skin tones like her. And you don’t find women with such striking pinkish rouge on, unless you go back to the ’80s when she had a big stereo system in their living room, complete with 10-point sound equaliser sliders. When I saw this oddly placed unfashionable ad, it reminded me of a video I’d seen many times before. It was rather sensational and it was well received in creative world, so you might know this.

I believe it received a number of creative awards. It was not shown in the places I’d lived in, or when I was regularly watching TV any way, and I saw it for the first time in some meeting in an ad agency when I was working there in Singapore. It has a strong brand message, the kind that appeals to the user’s loyalty. But when I see this ad on Mixi, what I remember is the end product of the process, the manufactured face.

It was probably 4-5 years ago, when many of the photos used in printed advertisement were fake. With multiple lighting to create a sense of the place, rather than shooting in a real environment, the image was ‘improved’ heavily on Photoshop, removing irregularity from the skin, hair and shape of the body. It has become more of an issue since they have negative impact on the teenagers with their perception of an ideal adult woman. We adults know that there is no way such a human being could exist or considered ideal, but kids don’t know that yet and they are bombarded with such manufactured extreme images through media.

If you look at ads of automobiles on magazines these days, most, if not all, are manufactured images of cars driving smoothly in an impossible situation. They are products of 3D imaging and the amazing technology in texture graphics. They are there to impress potential shoppers with positive feelings, so that they actually go to the point of sale.

In fashion, perhaps as a rebound from the extreme length it’s once gone to manufacture perfect images, or as a simple change in trends, many images are made in a natural, simple manner. Even in the top fashion magazines, many photos are made with a simple single-lighting set up, and the photos are often used in print with very little modification.

I personally enjoy shooting in a documentary style, so I normally do not modify my images much. One exception would be one time when I was working on a mother-and-child series. The mother came in and said she hasn’t got a make-up on but she wouldn’t worry too much about it. I prefer to keep that mood going on, so we got right into it. Of course I took care in choosing the lighting, but there was a moment where the emotion was visible and I could see the connection between her and her baby. The lighting was not ideal but to me the main thing is capturing the real feeling rather than takng ‘pretty’ pictures. So we pressed on, and it turned out to be a beautiful image. The lighting, however, emphasised the skin texture a bit and made her look more aged than she was. After all, she, just like many women out there, would put a make up on before being out in public, and a photograph, by nature, is something that should be displayed in public, among their other family photos. So I put the image in Photoshop, and assumed the role of the make-up artist. I lightened the wrinkles ever so slightly, and also powdered the spots around her nose. It is just so light and natural, rather than manufacturing something artificial. It looked like she had her make-up on, and others may not notice it from the natural image. I delivered the print in 6″x9″ which is not a small print, and I’m sure she would have noticed the make up that somebody else put on her face, but there was no mention of it. It was me who encouraged to proceed with the shoot right there and then, and it was my job to ensure she doesn’t look older in the frozen memory called photograph.

Any photographer with proper image editing skills can do that much. Controlling the tonal contrast in parts of an image to draw viewers into it more strongly is something photographers are used to doing. But fundamentally, it is about what and how I, the photographer, capture. What I really care about is the integrity in the reality, the real feeling, the real memory at the real place in the history of people I photograph. That is why I normally go to the customer’s house or some place that is familiar to them, dressed up like they normally would, and use the lighting of the location as much as possible, to make photographs that look just like how everyone in the family would remember how they are in that place and the point in time. I photogrpah just a day in life of a family, birthday party, gathering of relatives and friends, to weddings, as well as other, more corporate or creative photographs. If you like to have photographs of your history, your family and friends, just the way you are, please speak to me. I’ll work according to your schedule and location as much as possible.

mother's embrace

Daisy make-up class

Eisuke

Eisuke and daddy

It was in early December when the news came; it was a boy!

Keisuke runs a bottle shop along the highway in northern Osaka. He loves driving his MX-5, though his regular car’s been changed to a red Alfaromeo hatchback that he bought when he got married. He is no older than I am, but every evening he is in the truck delivering cases of drinks to this bar and that restaurant, while sitting behind the counter in the store during the day. Since his father passed away a few years ago. His talk is gentle, with accent of people from Tokyo – something he’d picked up in his university years. Always smiling, listening well, it is not very often he talks of himself. I guess that’s what you become when you are in a customer-facing business for a long time. First rule – customer first, you listen.

It was a pleasure to be a part of his wedding which coincided with my last short visit to Japan, and this time his first son. December is a crazy time for anyone in Japan, but especially so for people who are in business. Following the custom you have the gift giving and receiving, you visit your business relations like your wholesaler, customers, and all that, to congratulate each other for another hard year passed and wish for a safety and prosperity in the new year. It is often with a sigh of relief that those people welcome the first day of January, when you can finally sit down and enjoy the meal and sake with family, appreciating the new beginning. I waited until all those madness is gone from his life, and in the mid-January visited his parents’ home behind the bottle shop where his wife and son drove in from their apartment for this photo shoot.

Osaka had a very cold winter this year. During the month-and-half I was there, I saw flakes of snow come down probably more than 10 days. It is not continuous fall, and it tends to melt before it starts to cover the ground white, but it did get to that level for once or twice. On this day, however, I had my sunglasses on, not because of the snow glare but it was a sunny beautiful day, as I drove my father’s Peugeot. I walked into the liquor store to find the tiny baby in his mother’s arms. Her sister-in-law called for her brother for me, and together we walked to the house in the back. I believe this was the first time little Eisuke came to the home his father grew up in. With eyes wide open he keeps staring up at things around him. So much intensity!

Finding himself in the father’s arm, Eisuke seems to be communicating a lot with his father. Unfortunately we would not understand him even if he had made some sound, so he tries with his intense eyes. I wonder what the father is feeling. Is there some special communication only parent and child can have? It must be nice to have your prince. I am happy to travel around the world to find my princes and princesses, only they are not quite ‘mine’ and raised by my friends and brothers. But it is a pleasure to see them grow.

mother's embrace

Kumiko-san takes over as Eisuke starts to cry. Mother knows best. She quickly understands what he wanted. Keisuke seems a bit concerned. I think this is just a lovely image of a couple. Don’t you think? With both parents giving all they can to protect, the little boy is growing up.

grandma

Keisuke’s mother, or Eisuke’s grand-ma, had not had many opportunities of holding her first grand child in her arms. She looked very happy to hold her even for a brief moment. I went around to photograph them where they were.

In this cold winter we were blessed with plenty of sunlight on this day. We get to choose the type of light that comes through window and had a great hour of photo shoot. Unfortunately the printed photos I gave the couple as a gift was way too light (whit-ish). I guess that is the problem when you do not have a pro-lab in your neighbourhood and want a good set of prints done quickly. Next time, I’ll know better to choose a professional lab in town, and give it extra few days to process. I’m sure Eisuke would have become a larger boy by then.

I’d like to thank little Eisuke for his patience, and the kind couple of Keisuke and Kumiko for allowing me to photograph their precious boy. And many thanks to Keisuke’s mum for sweet snack with coffee, and a box of rice crackers to take home. I will definitely come back 🙂

Annelie, a cute little doll

Annelie

Recently I had a pleasure of photographing Annelie and her lovely caring family in their northern suburb home. I’d seen a few photos of Annelie, really cute ones, so my expectation was high.  But when I parked my car outside their family home and walked through the front door, the baby I saw looked exactly like the photos I remember – Annelie looked just like a porcelain doll with her big blue eyes! (I almost got myself a self-portrait in her shiny eyes!)

Everyone was there, so they all took turns to show their off their little princess in front of me. They stood behind me as I point my camera at the little one, cheering and screaming, hoping to make her laugh and smile. I played along a bit, got a few beautiful shots, but at the same time, I was waiting for things to settle down. If you read my blog before you would know by now that I do enjoy photographing scenes of daily life as it takes place. I am of course aware that in a pure sense it is not really ‘natural’ because they would always be conscious of the foreign element in their home (me) and the camera that is recording how they look, what they do, all that, and they do want to look ‘nice’. Many people are really good at posing when the camera is one them. Annelie’s big sister, Nathalie, for example, put on a beautiful smile when the camera is on her. But adults are usually a bit more conscious about the whole thing, often reserved, so it is my task that, as long as they do not tell me they don’t want their photos taken, I see the moments when they look naturally beautiful, without posing or making scene for a camera, but something real, something authentic, that hopefully they would want to keep looking at as printed image on the wall or album and remember how they felt on that day.

with the big sis Nathalie
I want her beautiful long hair!

It is quite obvious who is the centre of attention here.

"I command you..."

Look how she sits back comfortably to face her people…

working hard to make Annelie smile

But when she gets hungry and a bit grumpy, she knows who’s got the control of the world. She knows who looks after her, feed her, change her, carry her across the room, all that. It is all thanks to her mum!

Is my milk ready yet mummy?
Watched over by the caring family
a cute couple

Milad, thank you so much for having me at your home to photograph your beautiful family. It is a shame that I won’t be in town for Annelie’s Christening photo shoot, but I’d love to come back and make beautiful images of your family as your kids grow up happy, healthy and beautiful.