I went after photos of a matsuri at Miwa Jinja today. It turns out that I like the photos of the grounds more than the ones of the actual festivities. Recently I don’t like taking photos of people as much as I do taking photos of things. It’s interesting: On one hand I find myself wondering if this somehow has a deeper psychological meaning and on the other, I really don’t care if it does or not.
I almost never feel guilty taking photos of random things, but human subjects sometimes cause me worry or even grief. This stems partly from the Japanization of my perception and values over the past decade, I’m sure. I still don’t bow when I speak on the phone at work to clients, although this is somewhat of a conscious effort not to do so when it’s a really high ranking executive who could affect our bottom line to any significant extent, or have my head by expressing displeasure at the tone of sincerity in my transactions.

3 thoughts on “Lantern

  1. I feel the same way. About 90 percent of the pictures that I take focus on subjects rather than people. I don’t mind occasionally being in a staged picture and presenting a smile, but I hate it when people repetitively and frequently make me take pictures and request me to present myself as a caricature of anything other than what I am feeling at that moment. I much rather like taking shots and catching people when they aren’t aware, in order to capture a genuine experience. I don’t think that a preference to take pictures of subjects other than people is the result of assimilating Japanese cultural values, rather that these pictures have more meaning to me personally. I am not against taking purikura, but you will never hear me say “Hey everybody, lets all dress up as Samurai and Geisha and get into that booth with the Kumamoto Castle in the background!”.
    I think we all know that you are willing to tread the fine line of what is commonly acceptable when you take pictures and what you post. For example, it may not have been appropriate to stand three feet away from that badass bartender who was whirling molotov cocktails at FantaSea (the amusement park in Phuket). It may not have been prudent to take video of the confrontation between a concerned parent and probable pedophile during the matsuri. I was not amused when you were snapping pictures in Tunnel no.3 under the DMZ in Korea, after the tourguide gave strict instructions not to do so. But this is what often makes for good pictures. To me, states of embarrassment, hyperactivity, exhaustion, anger, concentration, tension, unhappiness, and laughter, among others, are my favorites to look at over and over.

  2. I agree with all your points except for the pedophile confrontation at the festival last year. If the father had started to lose the fight, I would have turned off the video and jumped in. If the cops had shown up and given the father a hard time, I would have passed them the tape and given a statement. Given the chance to do it all over again, I would have started taping a minute earlier and taken the windsock off my directional microphone. In that situation, what harm could possibly be done by my videotaping?
    But you are right about the Korean invasion tunnel – if my flash had set off a photosensitive trigger rigged to a series of high explosives and caused a cave in, I would felt really, really stupid. It’s just the principle of being told not to photograph “because it might upset the North Korean government” that practically guaranteed my taking the pictures. Fuck those commie bastards. Wow I never thought I would type that phrase, but there it is and the world is richer for it, no?

  3. You have quite interesting stories, CB. I see your readers are commenting more now, too. There weren’t any comments at the beginning of the archives. It doesn’t really matter what you are writing about, please just keep it up!

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