The Fifth Time’s The Charm

View From the Park Hotel, Tokyo © Emily Shur 2006

In twelve days, the husband and I will be departing for a week of good times in our favorite city, Tokyo.  We were there almost exactly one year ago, but only for a few days and there were some work obligations associated with our trip.  This time our only obligation is to have fun, and boy do we need some fun.  Since this will be my fifth time in Japan (and in Tokyo), I’ve been doing some research on areas of Tokyo I have not yet been.  I feel I have covered the obvious, and now onward and upward (hopefully) to the less obvious and more interesting imagery.  This time the Wista will come along for the ride, along with my tried and true Mamiya 7.  I was planning on mentioning this trip soon-ish, but an amazingly awesome post on Liz Kuball’s blog got me even more excited about my trip.  So I thought now is the time to share my travel plans with the world…and by the world, I mean my 4 or 5 readers.

I have photographed more in Japan than I think I have in LA, and I live here.  I realize that about a million other photographers feel the same connection with Japan that I have, but I stopped caring about that.  What I care about is taking pictures that I’m proud of and make me happy.  A little recognition and respect would also be nice, but ultimately that is not the reason to photograph.  This trip also coincides with Blurb announcing a call for entry for their second Photography.Book.Now competition.  Last year I entered a book I made solely of pictures I have taken in Japan over the past five or so years.  I’ve had some issues lately with Blurb’s quality control, but I still really love their BookSmart software, and they have always been attentive to any problem I’ve had.  I plan on entering again this year…possibly with a continuation of last year’s entry…possibly with something completely different.  The best part of entering (besides the possibility of winning $25,000) is having an excuse to edit my work, sequence it, and get one step closer to my dream of someday actually publishing a book of my photographs.

I’ve tried to figure out why I’m so drawn to photographing in Japan…why I still haven’t found what I’m looking for anywhere else.  Sure, I’ve taken lots of pictures elsewhere that I’m happy with, but I haven’t found that same level of consistent visual inspiration in other places.  I also think it’s a mindset type of thing.  Japan is a peaceful and happy place for me.  I associate it with only good things, and I’ve only ever had good times there.  I associate Japan with my parents, my honeymoon, my husband, and some of my favorite photographs I’ve ever taken.  I think emotional association is a very powerful and personal mechanism in terms of what comes through in our photographs.  You can kinda tell when someone is loving what’s happening in front of their lens and vice versa.

9 comments to The Fifth Time’s The Charm

  • drew

    i just read a book by Anthony Bourdain called “a cooks tour”. it is basically the book version of his tv show. anyways, in it he has a whole chapter on japan, and it sounds amazing. have you been to the tsukiji fish market? i’ve always wanted to take a camera there. the colors alone sound pretty phenomenal.

  • Jonathan Canlas

    i would LOVE to go back to japan and shoot. i lived in tokyo and surrounding areas for 2 years.

    i can’t wait to see what you come up with.

  • Liz

    Hey, I’m so glad to hear you’re going back to Japan! I guess my post was timed well, without even knowing it.

    Also, you can click here to go straight to my post about your book. (If you ever want the direct link to one of my posts, just click the time stamp at the bottom of the message, and that’ll take you to the post’s page, where you can get the URL.)

    Looking forward to meeting up with you in April! Have a great trip, Emily!

  • Emily Shur

    Liz, thanks! I changed to a direct link. I tried to figure that one out for about 10 minutes and then gave up. :)

    Drew, no I have not been to the Tsukiji fish market which is surprising because it’s kind of a must see from my understanding. I just can never motivate at 4am which is apparently when you’re supposed to go and see all of the fish coming in. Maybe this trip. I do hear it’s amazing. I read “Kitchen Confidential” by Anthony Bourdain…sounds similar to the book you read. Also a whole chapter on Japan.

    Jonathan, just visited your site. Love that you are a proud film shooter.

  • ingalbraith

    and i make four ;)

    and i’m also a bit envious. forget about the real world. have fun.

  • chris

    Your idea about emotional association being very powerful in image-making really resonated with me, especially when photographing places. I tend to be an emotional person :) and I used to hate that about myself, but it can be a great resource too!

    Your blog is great. I am a regular reader.

  • Drew McD

    Drew, I’m going to Japan at the end of June, and I’m planning on hitting the fish market. Probably after I get into Tokyo, while I’m still jetlagged and unable to sleep.

    Emily, can’t wait to hear about your trip to Japan, and if possible, get some recommendations!

  • Cassie Jones

    I think it’s so appealing because it’s so colourful and the food and culture itself is just soooo different. I would love to visit there; have a lot of fun; can’t wait to see your imagery! -Casssie

  • PIXFeed

    Japan is a such a fun country and so unlike the States. I managed to go there three times already and always find it fascinating.

    I get an extra kick that I’m Asian and folks just start talking to you in Japanese which I just smile politely and nod.

    I used to have a friend there whom I met in Texas. He’s a tall Texan-looking fellow and when we get approached, I just look at my friend and he’ll speak Japanese which always seems to impress the heck out of them. ha !

    have fun out there !