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!

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 🙂

Sanna and Kaius

Sanna and Kaius

A little over a month ago, I photographed this mother and baby at their home. I kept my expectations or ideas from building up too much, but instead allowed myself to see what is happening. As it turned out, what hit me was the simplicity of it all. Natural, earthy colour palette, simple but design-oriented furniture, and plain lighting.

on the centre stage

It was already dark so there was no light from the window. There are patches of area in the room where the down-light lit up, and the rest of it was just in the shadows. Instead of using my flash or additional lighting to change the mood of it, I set my camera to high ISO to cope with low light, and played along with what Sanna and Kaius were doing.

Thanks to the quality of camera and technology in photography development software, it is possible to produce images at this setting without losing the texture. I even shoot indoor portion of wedding at high ISO now. ISO 800 or 1600 film back in my school days used to produce less saturated, colour-shaded, and rough edged images. That is the past. We can produce photography in any light so long as our eyes can see. Natural ambient light gives the image more natural mood than blasting off the flash.

In the end, what I captured was just what it was – simple life, simple connection between mother and a little boy, nothing excessive, nothing decorative, just authentic. It was not a kind of relationship that you would capture by posing mother in the spotlight with baby on her chest. Sure, I covered that, just for the sake of it, but I knew right away, that it was not them.

What I aim at as a photographer is capturing what is really there. I am not looking for a pretty picture, and I prefer not to set up. I would like to create images that make people say, ‘yes, that’s exactly how I felt that day!’. You may think it is easy – what more do you need than pointing the camera to what is in front of you and click? Well, there is more to it than that. Try it for yourself. Click and see if it looks exactly as you see it? I enjoy that process and I’d like to continue offering this to everyone – capturing their natural emotions and relationships.

Thank you Sanna and Kaius for kindly allowing me to photograph you. And thank you for a warming chicken n corn soup you treated me with that night. I’ll have the print ready for you when we meet next.

It’s cold outside!

Drain
Drain!

See this image on lightbox here.

It is in the middle of the winter here in Melbourne. One week it’s rather warm, another week it’s freezing. What you see on the weather forecast today is pretty much the worst it can get: it’s chilly, windy, and stormy. You get wet because the umbrella wouldn’t really work when you are walking on the open wind-blown path from station to home at night, and it gets very cold when you are wet. So, while I am waiting on confirming the schedule of my friends for ‘couple in the city’ shoot, all I can do is look at the location scout sketches and thinking how I can light the subject to the best effect. The couple I have in mind presents a unique challenge for me, which I’d noticed a bit when I shot them at their engagement party, but now that I think of them in the dark with my hand-held flash as the only lighting that I can control, I know it will be an interesting challenge.

At photography school they encourage you to use a visual diary. How you use this is really up to you, but in essence it is your own scrap book. To me, it is the whiteboard I used to insist on having near me in the office to draw up ideas as they come by (as I tend to lose the piece of notebook I’d drawn things on, but whiteboard is not easy to lose, especially if you have a mobile phone with camera to permanently save it). My tutor called the visual diary a place where you have a dialogue with yourself. You get an inspiration, an idea, a pop, a light bulb flashing above your head. You jot it down. You have a coffee break later when you can sort of just glance over your sketch or text or clipping from magazine, that was your ‘idea’, and add some meat around bones, draw some diagrams, arrows to indicate potential use of lighting direction, frame to decide composition… While I was thinking about this next project, one of the ideas I was sketching on came back to me. It was from a scene in a movie, and I’d paused the movie while sketching the rough onto my visual diary when I saw it a few months ago. I didn’t have a chance to use that idea until now because I was focusing on a project that has to do with subject that has very little human shape in it (though their presence was clearly identifiable). Now that I’m back to shooting people, especially when I wondered how I could solve this unique challenge, it came back to me. As they say, you never forget things you’d written. You read a book, you watch a podcast, and you think you got it. But nothing beats the effort you put into actually writing down what you are ‘getting it’, when it comes to actually saving that into your memory storage upstairs.

Unfortunately the day seems still long after watching a movie (for inspiration, of course!), sat up with a cup of coffee staring at blank wall and jotting down stuff, and following Le Tour bike race on TV, and my camera is just sitting in the middle of the coffee table as if it blames me for my laziness. So I start thinking about where I can go to shoot. Williamstown is not very far from me, and seeing its location on the map it is not a bad place to look for an image of the city over the sea. Maybe sunrise? No, not likely. Le Tour finishes its telecast around 2am and I’m not gonna get out of bed at 6am dragging my gear and tripod on public transport to get to the seaside for sunrise shot. What if it is just dull overcast morning after all that effort? Well, what about sunset then? I won’t be in the traffic jam as I’ll be traveling against the flow of city workers on their way home after I did the shoot. But the sun is not going to set behind the city but behind me, and will it paint the sky nicely orange, which would happen on a stormy day and if I’m very lucky and the sun is not blocked behind me… And it’s going to be windy and cold in the sea-breeze, in the middle of the winter… So I don’t go. That’s how it works out in winter. Much nicer to put on my warm clothes (I don’t use the heating) and sit on the couch with my legs under me :p

Anyhow, the camera still is there, not saying a word but I could feel its cold stare blaming me. I look around to see if there is anything interesting. Not really. It’s the same old room. I don’t have a fancy interior piece and it’s too much work to try to set up a lighting that makes ordinary objects in my room look extra-ordinary. It’s just too cold for that in here. And then, one morning, I saw this. The German simplicity meets Japanese simplicity. I love the pictogram, too. I used to propose a major usability improvement on instruction documents using lots of those when I was working in a global organisation. But hey, I just love the sense of space, anticipation… why is it all so white and blank? What is there? And maybe you see something there, maybe you won’t. Love to hear your reaction to this, ladies and gentlemen of my audience. Just press the comment link on the top of this post, and it’s all yours 🙂