The other side of the coin…..the grass is just the same colour

8 11 2014

DSC_2393 - Version 2

For 5 months I have been culturing a beard. The moustache and chops are optional but depend on my propensity to approach the razor. I’ve had beards before; they come and go. The first when I was about 28, the second aged perhaps 35.

Of my own volition, I live in a society which discriminates against many things: tattoos, skin colour, ethnicity, gender, and beards. Of course there are also many positive points about Japan which in my opinion outweigh the negatives quite considerably but nonetheless…..I can see the grass on the other side of the fence and it is exactly the same shade of shit brown that it was when I lived in England.

I consider myself privileged to have had the experience of living in a society whose values are far removed from those I experienced in my formative years. I think it’s an extremely humbling and valuable life lesson, that absolutely everyone should aspire to. It seems that there are so many people whose outlooks might change when they’ve had the experience of being treated as an inferior commodity; with no hope in sight of being able to truly change that society mindset.

So this morning, armed with a sharp blade, foam, and a vision of purity, I set about the cancerous growth that had so clearly afflicted my face for the last 5 months. A labour of love (and hate, and itching, and the most negative reactions you could ever imagine from my sons and the wife – I suppose everyone else being too polite to say?) destroyed in a few deft minutes. Oh so that’s what my skin looks like? Yuk! Should have left it alone. One cold sore and a few unidentified bumps have been discovered. Should we inform the National Geographic Survey?

Visually I thought a beard added significantly to any guy’s appearance. It’s a balance implement for the hair on his scalp, even if he doesn’t have any? Well I have to think about that one. Maybe add some bristles in Magic Marker to a few campaign posters that are stuck up around my neighbourhood, just to get a vague idea. The hair on the chin adds a frame to the ‘eyes/nose/mouth’ that seem to be the fixation of portrait viewers. Or perhaps that’s just me.


Scotland in the news

19 09 2014

As an Englishman, Scotland has always been my neighbour, though the number of times I have visited could be counted on the fingers of one hand. This is a shame. There’s a huge expanse of unspoiled landscape, with castles dating back to medieval times. Real mountains and lochs. And a fiercely independent spirit embedded in the people of Scotland.

Japan has a Scotland Society, and once a year they hold a localised version of the Highland Games. I went along last year and found some strong men in kilts, throwing heavy weights into the air. Japanese afficionados would picnic on tartan blankets under cherry trees, and I even discovered what a ‘Japanese Scotsman’ wears under his kilt (and no, it’s not a pair of Union Jack y-fronts).

Japan Scotland Highland Games
Weight for Height Cpmpetition
Japan Scotland Highland Games 2013
Japan Scotland Highland Games
Highland Games 2013 in Japan

Gone racing

6 09 2014
The Mechanic.

The Mechanic. Without Kimura-san, the Lola Formula 3 car would never have gotten off the trailer.

‘Peter-san, please brake on’ – Kimura-san was about to put the jack under the front suspension, and just needed me to activate the brakes. Climbing over the wide body moulding, I levered myself into the driver’s ‘seat’ and stretched my legs down a seemingly endless tunnel. My size 11s found the pedals, but you need ballerina’s feet to touch only the brake. By turning myself kind of sideways, and pointing my toes, I managed it. Not a comfortable experience by any stretch of the imagination, and then there’s the wild howling crazed monster of an engine, inches behind the driver’s head. You really have to be a slave to cars, to even contemplate strapping yourself into one of these missiles.

I had come to Fuji International Speedway, location of the longest straight in the world, to shoot some portraits with a 10 year old Japanese karting champion. Unfortunately, he had gone to school. But Kimura-san, the mechanic for dentist Saito-san’s little F3 Lola, had an interesting face, and I told him so ‘not interesting, Peter. bad, maybe’. Saito-san owns and drives the Lola at closed meetings like this one, or historic racing events. But he seemed a little camera shy. So Kimura and I went to the pit lane, where you have these beautiful converging lines, and a heavy cloud covering the background. I shot with a 14mm lens, to include the dramatic architecture of the grandstand and circuit buildings. A flash in a soft box provided the light for Kimura’s face. It was a shame that the original subject had not made himself available, but still coming away with a great shot is compensation in itself.

Under-10 Tokyo Soccer Championship

22 06 2014

Under-10 Tokyo Soccer Championship

…it was a little bit on the wet side. I had a JJC lens raincover in my bag though, first time to use it, and it did the job admirably. Even rotating the lens through 90 degrees for horizontal or landscape shots, as the cover attaches to the lens hood, didn’t make any problem.

3Tides Tattoo, Harajuku

18 03 2014

3Tides Tattoo, Harajuku

one thing you might decide to pick up while in Japan is a tattoo. I went with my friend Jessica #shethatisnau on Twitter – to the Harajuku branch of 3Tides. she’s an illustrator and had co-authored a design drawing heavily on Lovecraft and the ukiyo-e style

there’s packaging, and there’s overpackaging

6 03 2014

living in Japan for the last 8 years, I have almost become accustomed to the Japanese habit of overkill on the packaging front. at the convenience store, the earnest and gushing staff attempt to bag every single item I buy. ‘would you like a bag for your can coffee?’ (that I will undoubtedly consume immediately, right in front of the shop, so that I can dump the container in their can recycling bin).

it’s overkill right? granted, if there are a few items, I might conceivably need a bag. but usually their bag goes right in the bin (for burnables). so more often than not, I need to protest and say ‘please, I don’t need a bag’. sometimes I might need to say it twice, as if those words don’t register. 

and then there are the overpackaged products. don’t even get me started on those! a packet of biscuits – it comes in a glittering film package….inside the sealed bag we can find another series of sealed bags, each containing a single biscuit! I know that the humidity can get a little overpowering in the summer but really? does the average biscuit buyer open the main bag and then eat a single one every day? 

I suppose that in a way, it’s ‘adding value’ to the product, by making each individual item seem more attractive. not to me! I just want to eat the biscuit…

but this seems to be a good parallel to selling any product – in my case it’s photography. I subscribe to various mailing lists from photographers here in Tokyo. photography ultimately is a product, and I firmly believe that a lot of consumers actually can’t tell the difference between products, so what differentiates one from another is the packaging. in one email I received recently, there was a whole raft of gushing text,  followed by examples of the product (example photos). it kind of turned me off; i thought to myself – there are too many words, what are they trying to hide? – there was nothing wrong with the photos, but the packaging seemed too fancy – perhaps there’s an inverse relationship between the amount of packaging and the quality/value of the product? perhaps not, the company from whom the email originated appear to be catering to ‘strictly high end’ customers, perhaps they appreciate the extra padding.

I looked at my own product and saw that in packaging terms, I was the equivalent of a small plain brown paper bag, or worse still, NO PACKAGING at all! horrors! so I’m wondering if I have made a terrible error. I would be the first to admit that my business skills are nowhere near the level of my photography skills, in all frankness. 

an efficient mass transit in an alien metropolis

1 03 2014


or so it might seem. the decidedly strange architecture of the Big Sight exhibition halls, coupled with the monorail of the Yurikamome Line, pretty much encapsulates Tokyo for a great number of visitors. an estimated 36000 poured through the doors this week, to visit the Smart Energy Expo. wind, solar, fuel cell and battery technologies were all represented.

Fuel Cell in a briefcase

Fuel Cell in a briefcase

solar panels aren't fantastically exciting but at least they have a reflective property

solar panels aren’t fantastically exciting but at least they have a reflective property

at least I know that the exhibitors share my unenthusiasm for black panel displays….they had this soccer guy liven up their display

at least I know that the exhibitors share my unenthusiasm for black panel displays….they had this soccer guy liven up their display

Full picture report over on my website