Saturday, 23 October 2010

Different lives through lenses

Last week we had the opportunity to watch two interesting documentaries about Annie Leibovitz and James Natchwey. Both of them are famous American photographers from whom I enriched my perspective as a trainee photographer.

If I asked random people to name few famous artists (such as Michael Jackson, John Lennon, Whoopi  Goldberg, etc.), you can be sure that Annie Leibovitz has photographed them.  I found fascinating the fact that she usually develops simple ideas into what she became famous for: wild lit, stage and provocative portraits of celebrities. On the other hand , James Natchwey, also uses simple ideas, even though he is a war photographer.  He then develops these ideas into photographic projects, many of which are known all over the world.

Both Leibovitz and Natchwey  gained their photographic experience by travelling in many parts of the world; Leibovitz travelled to Japan with her mother the summer after her sophomore year at San Francisco Art Institute.  She discovered her interest in photography here in Japan.  On the other hand, James Natchwey took pictures in many countries and regions where conflict arose: Rwanda, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, South Africa, and Latin America, and the Middle East.  I found it very interesting that after taking millions of photographs, Leibovitz and Natchwey finally decided upon their fields or specialty (fashion and war photography, respectively).

I admire the fact that both of them have a special connection with the subject they pictures. For example, in 1980 when Leibovitz photographed for Rolling Stone she asked John Lennon and Yoko Ono to pose nude together.  Lennon was not happy with her first ideas and Leibovitz didn’t insist about it. She always respected what her subjects would like to pose.  On the other hand, Natchwey is always in the middle of the conflict.  After he familiarizes with the subjects of his portrait, he usually takes close-up pictures of them.

I am very happy that I had the opportunity to watch these documentaries in the class which allowed me to develop my skills in photography and visual anthropology. Even though these photographers specialize in different areas, they are very similar and I learned a lot about the techniques and approaches in both portrait-fashion and war photography.


Tuesday, 5 October 2010

A Special Japanese Portrait

  Kensuke Shiota- a great friend...

During my first week at Kansai Gaidai University I met many people with whom I started to hang out. My fear of meeting new people disappeared the moment I went out for dinner with people I only knew for a few hours…

at Kansai Gaidai Houseclub

This is how I met Kensuke Shiota, a KGU student who practices Judo  at university.  I went to visit Caleb, a ryugakusee who started practicing judo this term; after the practice I had the opportunity to make the acquaintance of all his teammates. I was curious about Judo and I asked few questions…This martial art was completely new to me and therefore I thought of visiting more often.  Thus I asked the members if I could come and take pictures of their future practices. A few weeks later, they invited me to a judo tournament.  I thought that this was the perfect opportunity to get to know them better.

Judo Tournament

 winning the match

Kensuke, my model for this post, is a handsome, funny, intelligent guy who always cheers people up when he makes jokes in American slang. I admire the fact that he is ambitious and he concentrates a lot on his club work.  It was a wonderful experience to see him performing at the tournament, which was different from the regular practices at Kansai Gaidai University clubhouse.

practicing before the judo match

Going to the practices on a regular basis allowed me to understand and observe his personality and behavior towards his teammates and international students. Moreover, after the competition we all went out and had a great time. Kensuke is always happy when I ask him to take pictures of him. He sometimes jokes that he would be a superstar after reading this post. Hope he will be happy about this text too… :)

Winning the prize

not "a real" portrait but still funny...

Sunday, 3 October 2010

A neighborhood in Hirakata

I will never forget the first day I arrived in Japan in front of Seminar House 4. I carried my luggage through the cozy park in order to arrive at my new place in Seminar house 3. Walking for the first time through this park, I noticed the coffee shop called Café de Raffinee and some children playing around; however, I could not pay attention to any more details since I was rushing to the dorms.

Next weekend I went with one of my new friends to the park. After chatting for a while we decided to have lunch in the small coffee shop that caught my attention since my arrival in Japan. Once I entered the place, I discovered that Japanese families actually come to have lunch with their family, friends and/or neighbors. I was interesting to be the only foreign person in the coffee shop without a family or children.  As I observed some of the Japanese families from my neighborhood spending their Saturday with family members, I must admit that became a little surprised.

After a while, I revisited the place since we decided to celebrate Jessica’s 22nd birthday there. Being together with my new friends and seeing some familiar Japanese faces (from my first visit) was a nice experience.  After having lunch I went to the bench and I saw how small children were running though the water fountains and how older children were playing sports together or with a member of their family.

Unfortunately, I cannot speak Japanese very well and therefore I could not talk to the people for long time about the activities that they do during the weekend in this neighborhood.  I asked for permission to take pictures of them and they politely agreed. I am fascinated to see how Japanese families spend their weekends together – here activities are very different from the place I grew up. Every Saturday I walk through the park and watch them for few minutes- it makes me feel better…