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January 20, 2015


January 20, 2015

Kristopher Matheson

The images below tell the story of what I saw as I walked around Tokyo on January 20th, 2015.

This is a yearly personal project inspired by On Taking Pictures #142 (12:18-17:45), Jeffery Saddoris and Bill Wadman discuss "Time Capsule Effect":

Bill: Art, photography, music can be appreciated better if put into a box for a little while and looked at later ... I wonder if there is room for experimentation in not showing art now, but instead putting it in a box for 5 years?

Jeffery: Even a year. If you shot but never looked at anything — don’t look at it until the following year ... it sounds interesting like something Matheson would do as an experiment
— On Taking Pictures #142

And so I did. What follows are the answers to questions that I wrote to myself a year ago and can now answer.

What did you do on this day?

I set out with my camera to document what I saw on a single day to see how those images would feel after a year of not looking at them. I covered about 22 kilometres of Tokyo on foot, walking through some of my favourite areas: Shinjuku, Meiji shrine, Omotesando, Tokyo Station, Yurakucho, Ginza, and Shinbashi.

Where did the inspiration for this come from?

A conversation between Bill Wadman and Jeffery Saddoris, you can see it above. That episode aired on January 13, 2015 which is only a week before my birthday. So I figured doing it on my birthday would add something to the experience, which it did. In the long run I think it will be interesting to have a visual record of what I saw on this day.

Was there a difference in your shooting style versus your day to day style?

I had some ground rules: just me, my camera & my journal / no peaking / no chimping / no spraying / no looking at the photos until a year later. One thing that I took away from that day was being more observant of my surroundings, the people who may walk into the scene in a few moments, or the look of a scene, looking more for colours and patterns. Looking at the photos I took on this day I can see I was heavily influenced for the remainder of the year. This one day really influenced me to be more observant and to take my time a bit more, something that I carried with me for the rest of the year.

What did you shoot?

I shot my typical urban photography style, storefronts or the street with a single person or small group. There were some nature abstracts, which I will probably make a small series with later on. I photographed people, places, construction that was going on, and some graffiti much of which is also now gone, but I have a record of it. I didn't set out with anything in mind, I just wanted to see what I would find.

How do you feel about the photos a year later?

There was a point last year when I was searching through my images for a photo, one I was sure that I had taken, but I couldn't find it. After a while I clued in that I had probably taken it on this day, and sure enough the other day when I finally looked I found it (the above shot that has a neon sign that says "Apple Inn". I thought that I would have forgotten about the images, but really I think they stuck with me more than my day to day photography and influenced what I shot for the remainder of the year. The bad images have no more staying power than any of my other bad images, I knew some would be out of focus or I missed the chance just barely, they are still failures to learn from. In all I took 128 pictures that day, which is a lot more than I normally take, as I went through there were 20 that I quite enjoyed, and I found a common theme among those.

Would you do it again?

I already have! I set out on my birthday again this year and followed the same rules I set in 2015. I didn't cover as much ground as the previous year, nor did I take as many photos, the weather was terrible but I was determined to do it again. As long as I am able, I will continue doing this on my birthday, a small gift to myself.