Saturday, August 1, 2009

Back At It...ROUND 2: Lux Europe

Back at it.

Europe Aug 1-30, 2009: 1 mo, 9 lux cities

1. Glasgow Aug 3-7
2. Liverpool and/or Manchester Aug 7-9
3. Brussels Aug 12-14
4. Amsterdam Aug 14-17
5. Cologne
/Ruhr Valley (Germany) Aug 17-20
6. Milan Aug 20- 22
7. Naples Aug 22-25
8. Rome Aug 25-27
9. Barcelona Aug 27-30

Made it to London today and spent a nice day with buddy James Moed in his neighbourhood, London Fields, hanging at a pub and touring his adorable farmers' market (with a stop at the home made ice cream stand and the candy store for some fizzy pineapple candies). Though my head is still floating around a bit in the remote seas of Alaska (where I was traveling recently for 2.5 weeks) I am reminded how I do love England and that the skills to navigate a city are still well in my blood. Off to get some rest and then on to Glasgow come Monday to get this set under way. 9 more cities. 9 closer to Lux in monograph form...

Sunday, January 7, 2007


While figuring out how I ended up having connections in almost every one of the many cities I've visited these last few months I realized that most of my closest friends (plus my new buddy Nobu) are doing amazing things. Every one of them has been incredibly supportive, so in kind I've giving them seriously deserved press. Listed below and on the side bar you will find links to:

Gayle Brooker Photography:

Neeta Madahar: Julie Saul Gallery

Saturate Design: Saturate Design

The Curiosity Shoppe The Curiosity Shoppe

Nobuyuki Tachibnana: Nobuyuki Tachibnana

Ethan Murrow: big paper airplane

Mike Seely: Open Signal

Doug McGray:

Flingco: Fling

Noe Dewitt: Exposure Agency

Paulina Berczynski @ FluffyCo: FluffyCo

Amadeo Lasansky: Amadeo75

Peter Coffin: Andrew Kreps Gallery

Check em out.


I am amazed at the web of people I connected to around the world through so many generous folk. I want to thank everyone who helped me make this particular trip happen:

Steve Clark (no pict)for helpful ideas and advice pre-trip;

Kevin in Tokyo (above with G)

Mitsunori in Nagoya(above with G)

Bardwell Smith(no pict), for connecting me to Mike Flynn; Mike (no pict) for generously lending us your apartment!!!;

Alexis in Kyoto(above) for all assistance,

Gita in Kyoto(above with Alexis) for hanging out in a freezing mountaintop bathroom and taking an unexpected death-defying night hike down a Japanese double black diamond slope:

Ethan,(no pict) for connecting us with Nobu;

Nobu in Osaka(above with us), for being up for the adventure and for taking us all the way back to Kyoto on the late night;

Dai in Yokohama(above with studiomates + G) for scouting and hosting us in all our exhaustion;

and Mari, for so much help navigating around Tokyo, especially to Kiddieland (cool toystore in Tokyo).

Thanks to my family for all support

and biggest thanks of all to Gayle for coming along and for much patience and help.

Lux Japan: FIN

Post trip we stopped with my family in Berkeley for some time to battle the crazy jetlag. I had the chance to get all my negs developed right away and to my great relief EVERYTHING CAME OUT even all the shots I though I lost were okay if not great and I have good options for each city we visited. I have to say I have had some incredible luck and some invisible help all along with this project. I have much thanks. It's amazing to look at the accumlation of light in the negatives and see details of the land/cityscape that we could not see with our naked eye. The images will be posted on my website in the next few weeks (see sidebar for link).

I have to say Japan was the cleanest, most efficient country I have ever visited. The people are kind, respectful and generous with their time and any help they can offer and the trains and planes and subways are always on time and pleasant to ride on. The landscape is gorgeous and every tiny detail of life and culture is mindfully thought out, beautiful and packaged perfectly! For us visual folk it is heavenly! I recommend it to anyone.

Lux Japan: City #6 Yokohama

We arrived in Yokohama via train, then train again, then met my close friend Noe’s best bud from RISD undergrad and fellow photographer Dai, and caught another train to a train to his studio where we were to stay for the night. Dai had nicely set up a spot for us and I repacked my equipment before we took off to the brainstormed locations.

The first Harbor view was lacking so we walked up the hill a bit to the old foreigner’s cemetery my Japanese literature and film Professor friend Steve Clark’s had suggested we try. It was a nice option. First we tried to see if I could sneak over the low lying wall and set up on a little sort of landing that looked out over the skyline but I got caught by a worker! Dai asked the worker nicely if it would be alright if I photographed and reflective of the politeness of the culture, Gayle and I were sure it was a green light only to find out that the graveyard worker actually said a firm no. Oh well. I walked down along the wall of the cemetery until the path curved down some steps and found another great option. I set up the view over and sort of in a set of bushes, carefully cropping out all headstones and crosses (as not to bring a whole other dialogue into the work), and let the shot run for an hour. In the meantime Dai was off scouting another nearby option, a park where we ended up doing a second shot. It was also set up on a hill where, once I had scaled the back fence I could set up my camera on a ledge. It was not quite as interesting visually as the first but it felt good to get at least one more shot in as an option. Of course there were vending machines nearby so we snacked and drank our vended drinks and talked about RISD related experiences through the fence. We made our way back to the studio and checked out what turned out to be an amazing family run organic restaurant where Dai ordered us all kinds of interesting options including whale skin, and pigs feet (yeah whoa, different) and some AMAZING sashimi and other more familiar and seriously good foods! We stayed up late talking to Dai’s nice studio mates(Dai as the translator) and crashed on an air mattress around 2am amazed we had finished Lux:Japan rounds!!

Lux Japan: City #5 Osaka

Alexis met us to catch a train or two from Kyoto to Osaka where we got on the subway to meet our guide/helper Nobu. My talented painter friend Ethan became friends with Nobu, a jovial Japanese baseball-loving sculptor at Bemis, an artist residency out in Nebraska, and kindly connected us. About an hour and a half trip from our apartment later we arrived in the outskirts of Osaka close to Nobu’s studio space. He has access to his uncle’s land where he conceives and builds impressive giant playful metal sculptures. Nobu and his black lab Engine, met us at the station. Nobu impressed us immediately with his diligent determination to practice and improve his English. His tactic was to say everything out loud in Japanese first and then follow it with his English translation. Very successful and fascinating for us to hear both versions. (I had such a hard time wrapping my head around the language in Japan and mostly used the words for “excuse me” and “thank you” over and over again so was impressed with Nobu’s skills).

Our new artist friend seemed up for any adventure that was for the sake of art and though we sadly had to drop off Alexis to take a train home because she wasn’t feeling well, we ventured on to a mountain Nobu had described to me earlier over email. I had no idea what to expect but had described what I needed, so about 40 minutes later we arrived at the base of a park. We paid a fee, got a map, and wound our way up. One side of the mountain faces the city Nara and the other the sprawl of Osaka.

Our first Osaka-side-turn-out was perfect, another swath of Japan blanketed with light. I set up a shot with some of the hillside included and Gayle and I shared our usual picnic of Japanese snacks in the car with Nobu and Engine; fun times talking art, life and baseball. It began to sprinkle and for the last half hour I sat out with the camera in the cool quiet, sheltering the lens when short spells of light rain fell. Around midnight we packed up and figured out we had probably missed our last train. Our unbelievably kind new buddy insisted on giving us a ride all the way back to Kyoto. At 1am Nobu pulled away from the drive of our apartment toward Osaka. So appreciative of the ride home we gladly hit the hay.

(Check out Nobu’s website on the sidebar under link.The sculpture up top is his.
This is his pup Engine:)

Lux Japan: City #4 Kyoto


Through a professor of one of my favorite classes in college (also a recent colleague from teaching at Carleton) I was connected to another Carleton professor stationed in Kyoto for the fall semester. Because he had plans to be in Tokyo during our visit to Japan he asked if we would like to come to Kyoto while he was away and use his apartment. It happened to be the time of year EVERYONE (no really) visits Kyoto to see koyo the changing of the foliage. Hotels would be scarce so it was an serendipitous offer. Serious generosity! He also asked one of his students if she might be willing to help us for a small fee navigate the city and do a few shoots.

Alexis, a very nice Oberlin student met us in one of the more confusing train stations I’ve ever experienced and guided us to our new lodgings. After settling into the apartment we decided to head to Kiyomezu, the most beautiful temple I have ever visited. Unfortunately all those other tourists I mentioned above also decided that evening to visit Kiyomezu but upon arrival it was not surprising to see why. The temple is a series of buildings set along and down a hillside full of yellow, orange and red maples all lit from below and all of which overlook the city. A completely stunning scene ideal for contemplation if it weren’t for so many sharpened elbows.

I have to say as gorgeous as it was it was my basic nightmare for a shoot. Imagine trying to set up a tripod and a large camera in a herd of cattle. Pretty much. So after opting out of a spot on a wooden deck (which with all the cattle movement would end up blurring) we found a railing along a paved path where other folk were taking quick picts. I set up with Gayle on one side and Alexis on the other to keep people from potentially knocking the camera. Just before opening the shutter I did have one man literally put his entire 35mm camera with a flash in front on my camera and take a picture. Basically due to the chaotic situation all photographing etiquette seemed to be out the window. 40 mins into the shot an employee of the temple came over and told us there were no tripods allowed so I had to close the shutter early and pack up. Though relieved to get out of there I have to say my stress level was high! I had such a limited time and needed to get a something. We had plans to climb another mountain the next night for an alternate shot of Kyoto so at least a plan B was set in place.

We walked along the ridge near the temple and I found some Octiballs for dinner (what I named the balls of batter with onion and octopus in them covered with BBQ sauce I ate) while Alexis and Gayle went for the eggs and ham in batter made in a fish shaped waffle iron. Before giving up we walked through a lovely park in old town Kyoto, really one of the most beautiful areas I’ve seen anywhere. Exhausted and I will admit disappointed (but hopeful the shot would come out anyway) we found our way back to Mike’s apartment.


Okay so mountain #3 in Japan. Luckily for my project they have a lot of them near major cities. We met up with Alexis in the afternoon at the Golden Temple (the entire temple is actually painted with gold leaf) and also met up with a friend’s friend at the train station at the bottom of the mountain. 4 up we headed to the tram station where we caught a tram half way up the slope to a ropeway that took us to the top, another good-looking ride (when are gondola rides not cool?). At the top it was a strange sort of scene with no clear view options, a bunch of radio towers and construction so since the halfway mark was high enough we took the ropeway back down. Alexis had once hiked up to this point and had remembered a viewpoint, which we found off to the left of the tram station. There a crescent moon was setting over a hilly view of the valley that cradles Kyoto.

Another COLD night and I had some trouble deciding how to frame the shot. In the end I included the slope of the mountain to the left and centered the setting moon. A long hour and half we spent in the tram bathroom to keep warm (the tram had closed down for the night but luckily there are vending machines EVERYWHERE in Japan. We’re talking at the top and middle of mountains AND they give you cold and HOT drink options.) We all got a bit caffeinated trying out the sweet milk teas and coffees in the machine while waiting and I distributed the usual lollipops and other snack rations we had brought. I have to say all were troopers in the cold bathroom on a mountain in Japan but I will say the team got in even more of a trooper mode for the hike down the mountain.

While all other mountains had had a somewhat easy going downward movement to the base, this baby was no joke. With a few flashlights and some cell phones used for light, equipment on my back and a lot of darkness we followed a badly marked and sketchy trail full of boulders and roots and a steep decline into the forest blanketing the bottom half of the mountain. I will say there was something exhilarating about adventuring to that degree in the dark at night but I am certain it was unnerving for the rest of the group who had much less invested in my work. We did make it down safely after about 2 hours of intense hiking (I grew up going to Yosemite every year so this was not girly stuff!)! All feeling accomplished and exhausted we all quickly found our respective ways homeward.