I am dynamic kung-fu dancing!

Greetings from Tokyo’s skid row…

Part four of my S&R Tokyo Series

Just a guy, a bit too much in his cups perhaps, that I photographed in Nihonzutsumi in Tokyo. He was next to a vacant lot where a Nodaya liquor shop used to stand. I liked him. He was a nice, chemically happy man…

(Nihonzutsumi, Tokyo, November, 2015. See my other work here and here.)

Yakuza leisure dōjō

Let’s alcohol with happy gangster human…

Third in my ongoing S&R Tokyo Series. Here’s part one and part two.

In Asakusa at Kamiya Bar (神谷バー) you never know who you might meet. My wife and I were drinking there one night in November, 2015 with an Australian friend and her Japanese husband. The tables in Kamiya Bar are packed closely together, so we couldn’t help notice that the people at the next table were having a hell of a good time.

I took a chance and asked if I could photograph them. They happily agreed.

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The democratization of photography: S&R Honors George Eastman

Our lives are full of Kodak moments, even now.

The New York Times estimates there will be 1.3 trillion photos taken this year. Granted, the signal:noise ratio is low. A vast majority of these images will be captured with mobile phones of varying quality. Most will be selfies and casual users curating the moments of their lives, and if you want to insert the word “banal” in that description somewhere I won’t argue. I learned not long after buying my first camera that there’s a big difference between doing photography and merely taking pictures.

All that said, 1.3 trillion – that’s a huge number, and it must be acknowledged that digital technology has exerted a democratizing force on creativity. New tools have provided those who can’t afford an expensive DSLR with a means to capture, process and interpret their worlds in remarkably inventive ways.
If you can afford a nice digital camera, as well as increasingly accessible top-end digital editing tools (I use Lightroom, Photoshop and several of the functions in the Nik suite), the options are, for all practical purposes, infinite. Continue reading

Yasukuni rain

Second in my S&R Tokyo series…

Yasukuni Shrine is an interesting place, but I won’t make more of visiting it than doing so deserves. Suffice it to say the Japanese struggle spiritually with militarism far more than we Americans do. Hirohito himself refused to visit Yasukuni in the last 21 years of his imperial reign.

My wife and I went there on a rainy Sunday primarily to browse a weekly flea market on the shrine grounds. We arrived around 9:45 a.m. There wasn’t much right-wing nationalist activity, just five or six men in olive-drab uniforms sitting out the rain in two black propaganda vans. They drove away 20 minutes later.

Everything at Yasukuni that day was wet, the sky was uniformly dour and grey, and the immense Daiichi Torii gate looked as if it was indifferent to who walked under it that day and would maintain its indifference for the next 1,000 years…

(Yasukuni Jinja, Tokyo, November 2015. See my other work here and here.)

Above the madding crowd: a brief note on the artistic process

I posted a different version of this shot a few days ago. I loved the explosion of color but it lacked focus. The eye wanted to look everywhere at once, which can be confusing and tiring. This one has been cropped and I pulled the light in tighter around the upper left third – note that purple bloom standing higher than the rest? – for greater impact. Sometimes I wonder if any work of art is ever absolutely, positively finished…

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Darkness/lightness

First in an upcoming series on Tokyo, Japan, and life generally…

This is brief recounting of two men from very different walks of Japanese life, whom I encountered in Tokyo near Ueno Station within 45 minutes of each other. The first, an older and somewhat rugged-looking salaryman, stopped for a smoke on the south end of Ueno Station by a ramp which descends down to the Tokyo Metro

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The kitten, the junkie, the dog, and Steven

Extremes enrich an abundant life…

In my chosen profession there are extremes which exist outside of me and are mine (or yours) to take or leave. The world is ugly, and the world is beautiful, and I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable calling myself a photojournalist if I wasn’t willing to embrace how wonderful and horrible the world can be. You got to love the hate and hate the love, so to speak.

Scholars & Rogues has given me a forum to show you, our faithful readers, the weird bits of pathos, promise, and pain that I encounter as I wander in and around San Francisco, California and its suburbs. I do this to show you that we are not just a collective of progressive thinkers, critics, and college professors. We are also no strangers to the street. We have been in, and sometimes slept in, the gutters and found within ourselves the strength to take a realistic but also an humane and compassionate view of American life and how our country fits into the world.

So on the tenth anniversary of Scholars & Rogues, I want to make you feel good. And I want to make you feel bad. And I want to give you hope. Because that’s what life does to all of us on a regular basis. And to start here’s my kitten Kuro-chan grooming himself at my house in Brisbane, California…

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The man who laughed t‘ai-chi

The Falun Gong Show…

On my way to work this past Monday, I drove past an older man doing t‘ai-chi exercise by the side of a particularly busy street in South San Francisco. I broke several traffic laws turning my car around so that I could pull up to the curb in front of him to take a photograph. Luckily, I got to him just in time to capture this exuberant expression.

I’ve looked for the old man each subsequent morning since this encounter, but haven’t seen him…

(Hillside Boulevard near Lincoln Street, South San Francisco, California 2017. See my other work here and here.)