A major contributing factor to my photography adventure so far has been that it can be done entirely alone. When I was younger, playing football or playing in bands, I needed other people. I never really enjoyed playing music by myself and I was certainly never good enough to write anything of my own.
For football at least I could enjoy playing against the garage door or the wall of the house until someone came outside and pointed out the racket I was making. But I always had more fun with other people. Even as I got older it was a case of dragging friends out for a kick around. When I got to university games were easier to come by but everyone was miles better than me. These days for exercise I run and to create I take photos. They can both be done entirely alone – a blessing and a curse.
Unlike the vast majority of people in Tokyo, I don’t work Mondays. Every Monday I get up, maybe go for a run (Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday are my locked in run days), do some laundry and play a game until it’s done, have lunch and then get the train into Tokyo and shoot for a couple of hours. Sometimes I arrange to meet a friend for something and end up in Harajuku or Shibuya for a few hours. Generally I end up somewhere on the metro. All my favourite places to shoot have metro stations rather than (or as well as) JR or other private line stations. After that I’ll just walk by myself and shoot until I’m tired. Everything is entirely on my time. If I find a background that interests me, I’ll hang out there for half an hour without pissing anyone off. If I want a coffee, I can grab one and sit on the curb until it’s gone without anyone complaining. If I decide to take a break and go and study a page of kanji in a cafe because I can’t get in the zone, I’ll do that. I can work within my limits. Sometimes I struggle to get the light quite right or I take a slew of photos with the subject out of focus and get pissed off with myself. But, shooting alone, I can wait and shoot and practise until I get something that (good or not) I was looking for. Sometimes I listen to music, sometimes I listen to podcasts, sometimes I listen to the world around me. I got into photography because I could do it by myself, anytime. That still holds. Often I need that solitude to refocus and get ready for a busy week where opportunities to shoot for extended periods are few.
Sometimes you just want someone to talk to, you know? Sometimes I’ll walk for hours and get nothing and find myself checking my phone for messages way more often than I’d like. Sometimes I text friends and try and strike up a conversation. Or I’ll talk about how I’m in Akasaka in the rain on my day off and people just ask why before going back to what they were doing. Accidentally self-imposed solitude was a major factor in my first few months out here and something that lead me to photography in the first place. I’m pretty good by myself and I’m by no means lonely. I have great friends here and at home. But very few willing to share the street with me. Sometimes it bugs me. It’s a flaw I’m well aware of that I’m not great at forging new friendships. I’m working on it; or at least I pretend I am. How to better connect with people is something I think about when I walk around business-centric areas of Tokyo with my earphones in, too nervous to pursue conversations in Japanese.
Photography is perhaps a solitary pursuit by nature. No two people see the world the same. No two people can shoot a scene in exactly the same way. An infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of cameras – no two pictures the same. That’s one of the things that makes it such a wonderful kind of art. That said, I do fear chasing solitude too far. I don’t give a shit what anyone else thinks about the pictures I take. Sure it’s nice when people like them (really like them, little-red-heart like them, both), but I’m trying hard not to need that validation. But I do sometimes worry about closing myself off too tight. I like to share my way of seeing the world and I like to see others’. I think this blog came around in part as a way to talk about what I love to anyone who happens to fancy listening.
The ease of shooting alone is both my greatest joy and biggest fear in photography.
Tokyo, March 2017.