My career as a photographer was kick started after I landed in Tokyo in late 1991. This was well before the days of digital photography, I was largely self taught and had become entranced by the magic of the darkroom. What I lacked in experience I made up for in gusto. With in a year of landing I was fortunate enough to be shooting portraits for major magazines.
It would continue for the next five years, until I left Japan to start a family in the West. All these years later I look back on this period as being seminal to my career. There was something special about it - my innocence and the simplicity and honesty of the engagement with the magazine editors and subjects. I didn’t know how good I had it!
Though I would continue to shoot portraits of leading figures in business, politics and the arts in the following decades, these portraits shot during my Tokyo years stand out for me as being the most distinctive. The subjects, visiting Japan to promote their movie or album, were mostly happy to connect with a native English speaker and that resulted in a trust and empathy between the two of us. For the most part we were outsiders in a foreign culture, and as such free from its many strictures. It was unpretentious and uncomplicated.
The other part of the alchemy was the use of analogue film ... you were always aware of the number of frames you had left on the roll, which helped keep you in the moment, and I could take time out to chat with the subject while having to reload film into the camera. Though time was always limited, there wasn't the seemingly limitless shooting as is the case with the new digital cameras.
With portraits, you’re in the subjects life for a matter of minutes. It’s your job to connect with them, to built an empathy so as to capture a truth by peeling away at least a few layers of onion skin from the facade. As a gig I cherished it, it had nothing to do with the persons fame or notoriety, this was my great passion.
Here follows a selection of those portraits shot during my Tokyo years ...