What comes to your mind when you think about Japan? You probably believe it's either a futuristic place that’s stepping into the twenty-third century, or an island entrenched in its past, with floating geishas, gleaming katanas, and pink oceans of cherry blossom petals scattered across Mount Fuji. A culture isn't made up of one image, but a rich mixture that cannot be pinned down. Japan carries its history in its heart and in its hands the endless opportunities technology has to offer, and nowhere is this more evident than in its capital, Tokyo.
This city has inspired countless artists and has been the setting for some of our favorite films. But how does one go about capturing a fraction of this country that appears to live in two timelines? Brazilian photographer, Gerald Figueras is one of the few who has taken up the challenge. He fell in love with the city after visiting in April 2016 and he decided to move there in December of that same year. Since then, he has used his camera to capture the different layers and dynamics that give life to modern Tokyo.
Figueras’ work vibrates with the energy and vitality of Tokyo's streets. The nature of a culture can be felt by capturing the life of everyday passerby. As he honed his photographic skills, he unveiled stunning layers of Tokyo and its denizens. From people resting next to a busy avenue to commuters looking off into the distance daydreaming.
All his photos are about taking a break from the rush of everyday life. Simply picture yourself having a delicious dinner with friends under the canopy of a cherry blossom tree or dressing up to go out for a night. The intricate roofs of ancient temples mesh well with the towers of concrete and glass.
“I believe that people are the most interesting thing in the world. The potential for men and women to change their surroundings, in big and small ways, with positive and negative results, is something that keeps life unpredictable and fresh on a daily basis. Street photography is one of the greatest excuses you have to really stop and look around to how people are living their lives, and what they do with it.”
To capture the reality of Tokyo’s streets, Figueras barely interacts with the scenes. He tries very hard not to disrupt the rhythm of everyday life. “Developing the skills to frame in just a few seconds a scene that might look trivial to everyone else helped me appreciate my own moments much better,” he explains. That’s where the true beauty of his pictures lies: on the realization that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of moments to treasure happening right in front of us.
But then we wonder, compared to other cities, what does Tokyo have to offer to capture your imagination? According to the artist, it is the mindful lifestyle of this city.
Perhaps this self-awareness is another way in which traditions have been able to take root no matter the chaos of modern life. Girls go out wearing traditional dresses and take selfies using the newest gadget out there. We see families use the subways to visit a temple on the other side of the city; or we see passerbys smile as a parade of traditional dancers cross the busy street. Tokyo is not just a city of fantasy or technology. It can be both at the same time, and more. It is a city where even the smallest personal story is connected to a complex and colorful history.
If you want to see more of this photographer’s work, you can visit his website.
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