Pecha Kucha Osaka vol.2

Mark your calenders, I will participate in the Pecha Kucha Night Osaka vol.2 on Saturday August 31st at Trois Dix organic restaurant in Kitahorie, Osaka. I will discuss photo documentary from my point of view, with a strong emphasis on the PR-y project. I'll do my best to be entertaining, informative, funny and not a complete embarrassment to humanity. Get there early as there is only 100 seated space, and these events tend to fill up pretty quickly. I don't know yet who the other presenters will be, but I'm sure they'll be rather entertaining (check this previous post for a hint of what to expect).

Pecha Kucha nights were started 10 years ago in Tokyo (not all is bad there...) and consist of presentations by people from various backgrounds, usually related to design in one way or another. The format is fairly strict, though: we must show 20 slides, each shown for 20 seconds, making everyone's presentation last 6:40. Since its inception, the concept has traveled all around the world, with events taking place in over 600 cities. They are a great chance to "think and drink" as the creators say.

Hope to see you here in Osaka!



PR-y: Les Impatients, Montréal

I spent a month back home in July, and during my stay, I took the opportunity to visit Les Impatients, a center offering art workshops and creative spaces for people who had / are dealing with psychiatric issues. This ranges from depression to bipolarity. The name, puns aside, is meant to indicate that the participants are no longer (clinical) patients.

There were a number of differences with Atelier Corners, which I am more familiar with. First is the scale. Working with about 200 impatients in 7 locations, with large galleries and studios, Les Impatients have a much broader scope. Having been established over 20 years ago (at first in a shopping mall!), their output in terms of books, merchandise and so on is impressive (although they really liked The Cornerstone, because they have never done a documentary book like ours). And thanks to their networking, they often collaborate with well established personalities. This allows them to offer more than just working space, including focused workshops and a variety of creative outlets from comics to music.

The other main difference is the situation of the participants. At Corners, the artists are not independent, that is, they could not live on their own. Most have severe forms of autism and Asperger syndrome, and thus conversation is fairly limited. The impatients, however, are for the most part independent and communication is more direct. They asked me questions, made jokes, reacted to my comments; in other words, there were real exchanges. As an example, one impatient was discussing his piece with Laura, the workshop's coordinator. I made a comment, to which he answered: Who are you? I had made the mistake of not introducing myself to him, and his reaction was totally normal. I apologized for my rudeness, and later we went on to have interesting discussions about Japan and art brut amongst others.

This leads me to the art produced at Les Impatients. Although part of the outsider art spectrum, what they produce is fairly unique in that the creators are aware of their production and its place in the art world. Also, the organization prefers to use the term therapeutic art to reinforce the idea that art is a process for the impatients to reintegrate society and communicate with others. And while the terms and activities vary, Les Impatients and Atelier Corners share in the end the same goal, that is to give, through art, a voice to a minority that is not all that different from the so-called majority.

Contrary to Corners, which is mostly government funded, Les Impatients only receives 20% of their funding from the state, meaning they need to raise the other 80%. Corporations play a big role in this, as do private donators. The center also organizes many other funding activities, whether they be auctions, CDs, Valentine Love Letter sets, and so on. Which is better is a difficult question to answer. Dependence on government funding puts you at risk, especially in these days or decreasing social spending. On the other hand, the staff at Les Impatients are constantly working to procure funding, and while some corporations do give year after year, changes in management can spell the end of sponsorship rather quickly.

On a personal level, it was a wonderful visit. As with my visits at Corners, through the interactions with the impatients and the staff, I gained a lot more than I can ever hope to give back. With what I've learned, I look forward to the next activities with PR-y, as some of the things could be adapted here I believe. Also, after talking with the people responsible at Les Impatients and Atelier Corners, the idea of having joint exhibitions was well received by all: the seed has been planted, let's hope it grows into a beautiful fruit tree.

To see more pictures and comments from my visit at Les Impatients, please follow this link.


Art Salad 2013: Then I find, just the right thing

These days I've been feeling a little bit like Dj Shadow when he used to use samples only to create his masterpieces. He will go down history as the first person to record an album composed exclusively of samples (got in the Guinness book of record for it). In his Right Thing, he talks about the frustration of not finding the right cassette for his mood, although I think he referred more to not being able to find the right beat for his song.

For Art Salad 2013, I'm doing a montage of a few pictures, and it has proven hard to find the final shot. Unlike a painter or designer, I can't just draw whatever is in my mind; I need to find it and photograph it. Painters are right in saying that photographers 'just' capture what is there. But we actually do need to find 'it', we can't just take out our brushes and do it.

This morning, after dropping my little man at the day care center, I went to shoot two prospects, out of which I got some good shots. But then, a little by chance, I found my right thing. After, it was just a matter of sitting in front of the computer and doing the final assembly. And I can say that I'm pretty happy with it. Yeah!

To see it though, you'll need to come down to SoHo Gallery from June 18th to 23rd. As always, I don't know how often I'll be able to be there, although I should go most early afternoons. Hope to see you then!


First WE of Golden Week: Art Me Up!

Golden Week is a series of national holidays in Japan at the end of April - beginning of May when many companies will close for some extended time. It is my case and I have 10 consecutive days off, yeah!

And the first weekend was filled with art events. Friday night I went to the Asking For The Moon reception party, an exhibit by Nami Kanrei, whom I met at Soho Gallery's events, Shoya Taniguchi and Chieko Uemura. Asking For The Moon is a new brand they started and they exhibit some of the products they are producing and some of their artwork. The style is geared at the gothic/dark crowds, and they chose a very appropriate locale for their exhibit, Cafe Anamune, a hospital-themed maid café. The artwork is really good, and you have until May 7th to visit the show.

After, I went to L&L for the April edition of TGIF, an event hosted by my friend David Byrne. The music is always good and it usually features some live art and/or exhibit. This time, the art was done by Dina Abou Karam, a talented mix media artist who draws somewhat twisted fantasy characters. The live painting was engaging, the crowd was nice, the beats solid; I couldn't ask for a better way to finish the evening of my first day of vacation.

On Sunday night I went the third edition of Give Me An Easy Life, hosted by Eri Moon at Cafe Bar Pratas. Eri, pictured below, is a fantastic printer whose pictures, often of female silhouettes, have your eyes focusing and refocusing as one image springs up after another. Give Me An Easy Life features her works as well as that of other artists, whether photographers, designers, graffiti, and so on. My friends John Podeszwa and Yann Becker also had some of their art exhibited, and the beats were good. But not as good as the excellent mojito the very capable bartender serves. Again, a great evening.

Finally, last night Monday I went to my first Pecha Kucha event, in Kyoto. If you are not familiar with the concept, Pecha Kuchas started in Tokyo in 2003 and give speakers, mostly with a design/art background, the chance to make a presentation on their passion, and they are held in over 600 cities around the world now. The format is strict: 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds, and that's all the time presenters are allowed. Yesterday's Kyoto event, their 10th, featured, amongst others, a woman who makes personalized cakes, Soho Gallery's Celio Barreto, photographers (including one who recited original haikus he composed for each picture), a man who participates in an English Noh group, a textile recycler, and perhaps most fun, the Japan air guitarist champion, who rocked the house with his performance. You can see the first part here and second part, with a cameo by yours truly, here. The events are a great chance to network, get fresh ideas and have a jolly good time, which is exactly what I did! Thanks Kansai for keeping me entertained and inspired!


Off Series

My obsession with triangles (there you have the answer to my last post) isn't abating. Like the boy in The 6th Sense said "They're everywhere". But by now, I recognize the ones to capture, whether in that instant or in better lighting condition.

But being out there shooting so much does allow me to capture other moments and scenes, here are three. Enjoy!


Playing With Themes

I decided to play with a theme from today until... Can you guess what it is? From my very biased view, it's obvious, but maybe not so much on all pictures. Enjoy.


Osaka's Nightlife

As mentioned before, I was recently mandated by the Chamber of Commerce of Osaka and the Osaka Tourism Bureau to write some articles on Osaka's nightlife and provide pictures. Well, the articles are up and you can see them here. I'm not the only person who participated in this project, so you'll need to go through them to discover which are mine! Eight articles show up at a time, and as you refresh the page, others show up. Enjoy!


Cherry Blossom Season

I have to make a confession. I don't like taking pictures of cherry blossoms that much. I don't care for them so much, actually. However, I do enjoy everything that comes with them: warm temperatures; people taking back back the streets & parks and enjoying themselves; a city made a little less gray by the colors; picnics under the trees.

And being omnipresent, it is hard not to take pictures of them. I guess what I really dislike are the hundreds of similar pictures we see. Not that my own pictures are that original, but I do like to take a different approach to get somewhat unique pictures. These aren't the final destination, but just the nice path along that way. Enjoy!

A nutria, an invasive rodent introduced to Japan, hoping to cultivate its fur.


AED Course

Yesterday Sunday I joined a CPR and AED course given by my friend Nick, who had organised the volunteer trip to Tohoku two years ago. He is certified by the City of Osaka to give such a course, and it was really informative. The best part was of course learning CPR and AED usage. Watching CPR on TV and actually doing it are quite different. I hadn't realised how hard one actually needs to push when trying to resuscitate someone. Location is important, rhythm too, and of course I had no actual idea of how to use an AED kit.

Obviously practice and the real thing aren't the same. But I certainly feel more prepared to intervene should I get confronted to such a situation. Thanks a lot Nick, I'm really glad I got up early on Sunday morning to do it.

Hopefully, with the pictures that I took, I'll manage to convince Kansai Scene to do an article to promote Nick's training program. In the meantime, grab the April issue, there's a two-page spread of my cherry blossom pictures inside. Enjoy!


Fotografika 5 Continued & End

Today was the end of Fotografika 5: Awakenings. As always, thank you very much Soho Gallery, Goldie & Celio, for putting together a great event that challenges me and provides chances to meet great new people.

I managed to go almost every day, and the reception party Saturday evening was very nice. Most artists showed up, we talked about this and that, and as is often the case, it was over too soon.

I look forward to the next one. In the mean time, here is a picture of me, Demil Pibot and Kate in order in which we appear in front of our respective shots, and a close-up of my pictures. I plan on creating a gallery of all my exposed works, but it will take some time, sorry. Enjoy!


Brother-in-Law's Wedding

For the first time in over 11 years in Japan, I've been invited to the main wedding ceremony. A typical Japanese wedding might start with a ceremony at the shrine in the morning, then a Western ceremony, complete with fake priest, at chapel in a hotel, followed by a banquet in the hotel. After, there is a second party for friends at large, the main ceremony being reserved for family, close friends and business partners (who actually get the honor seats at the front, the families sitting at the back), and often many will go thirds, fourths and so on.

Well, my brother-in-law kept it a little simpler, skipping the shrine. The chapel ceremony and banquet were quite extravagant actually. He asked me to take pictures during the day, a first for me. Although I'm used to covering events, weddings are different, and I was glad there was an 'official' photography as well since I didn't know all the cues and special moments.

At the second party, I installed old faithful on a tripod with a soft box in a makeshift studio for the participants to have fun with. As it was their first time experiencing it, people didn't go too crazy this time. I guess I'll need to provide props and costumes next time for them to loosen up a bit more.

At the third party, in a karaoke box, I lent old faithful to the group, and one member in particular really got a kick out of using it, shooting the french fries, his bag, his feet...

All in all, a long and exhausting day, but quite interesting too. I haven't really had the chance to look and enhance the pictures I got. I chose this one for privacy issues. Enjoy!


Fotografika V

Today was the start of Fotografika V:Awakenings at SoHo Gallery. The exhibition looks great! I haven't had the time to really look at all the pictures but some standouts include Seal Pool's and Kit Pancoast's. I was also impressed with Tessei's, whose pictures were quite unlike I had seen from him.

As for my shots, they were a sort of 'awakening': I built props, shot in a love hotel (way cheaper than a photo studio, with interesting decor, although it implied serious discussions with my understanding wife), and a half naked model. It isn't a nude shot, we only see her bare back (above the waistline), and I'm quite pleased with the result.

As with most SoHo exhibitions, I should be there most early afternoons from about 12 to 2pm. I hope you can make it. See you there!


When it Rain it Snows, I Don't Know Why

And so goes the life of the freelancer, not that I really complain; my throat would have long been slit had I kept that desk job at (fill in the blank) cell phone company.

Humm, where to start.

Well, artistically speaking, please come to SoHo's Fotografika from next Tuesday. I'll be showing one of my most ambitious picture ever. Thank to my yet to be un-named model, and my great wife, who allowed me to do the shoot - alone with my female model - in a location usually associated with other business (for me, it was cheap studio space, really). Anyways, I really like the shots, I hope you will too.

On the family side, I shot the pre-nupt pictures of my brother-in-law last week. I didn't feel so good doing it since the hotel where they'll hold the reception had a photographer assigned (don't bite the hand of the people in your own field, me says). My brother liked some of my shots better, I'm just happy to make the new couple happier.

Finally, through one of my photo courses, I've been to commissioned to write and shoot about Osaka's nightlife. The pay is good, but I feel more gratified to showcase the city I live in ('she sees my good deeds') and that I adore. I'll have 4 or 5 articles on official websites, of course I'll let you know about them when they come out.

In the mean time, here's a shot my son took last Saturday. Positive thoughts to the little one, in the hospital, getting his mojo back from pneumonia. See ya soon, little spud.


Awakenings and Osaka Rivers

Last Wednesday I finally got to shoot for Fotografika V: Awakenings. It was my most ambitious photo shoot ever, building props and costume for my model and shooting in a somewhat unconventional location. I haven't really looked at the results yet, but I got the shots I wanted. You'll need to wait until the exhibition to see the results however.

In the mean time, here are some shots from a possible project that's been running in the back of my mind for some time. I don't know if anything is ever going to come out of it, but here's an iteration. The project is called 'Rivers of Osaka'. These were shot along the Yodo and Shirokita rivers.


Recent Randoms

From a trip to Nozawa Onsen for snowboarding to playing with the multi-exposure function and getting strange results from my smartphone, my blog silence doesn't mean I've been slack. Also, for the next Fotografika, whose theme is Awakening, I'm preparing perhaps one of my most ambitious set ever. Hopefully I can get it together!

Here are the randoms in question, click to enlarge.
During blizzard-like conditons 

The next day was fantastic!

Our inn is by the road, a bit off center to the right

Smartphone x King Camera

What got into my iphone? I like it!
Double exposure, in camera 


Atelier Corners '13.2.21

Yesterday I visited Atelier Corners as part of the ongoing PR-y project. It had been some time since my last visit, and as always the welcome was warm and sincere.

Present artists were Koh-chan, Mami-chan, Ya-chan, Nao-chan, Makoto-kun and Hiroki-kun. These last two were in good shape, continuing to play tricks on each other, while Hiroki also took pictures and continued talking. Mami-chan kept talking about starting to draw, but did little. Koh-chan spent a lot of time at the sink, and started to draw a little before lunch time. As for Ya-chan, he was shier than usual, but he kept on drawing. For her part, Nao-chan sat on the floor for most of the time, looking rather sleepy.

Something funny happened. Makoto, who was using crayons (a first for me to see it), looked over at Hiroki who was drawing self-portraits, and started to do his rendition of Hiroki's self-portrait! I don't know if he meant it as a joke or something, but I thought it was funny.

A few times Hiroki Hiroki picked up a camera (I think left by Luigi Clavareau) shot a few shots. He also used my extra dslr, which sadly had some troubles, most likely caused by the blizzard-like conditions last weekend in Nozawa. He seems to enjoy taking pictures a lot, I suspect the films will be mostly filled with his snaps.

Here are some pictures of the day. Enjoy!


Car Danchi 6 Contest

A while back ago, I sent my friend Neil Hartmann, snowboard filmmaker & photographer extraordinaire, a F*ck Tokyo, I Love Osaka t-shirt in return for a copy of his latest movie, Car Danchi 6. Perhaps because he forgot for a long time, in the end he sent me 4 copies!

Of course, I'll keep one.

As for the other three, I open a trading contest: what are you ready to trade in return for a copy of the movie. I am ready to ship internationally if the prize is right. Money doesn't count as a trade. Contest ends at 11:59pm February 14, Osaka time, since I love you all.

E-mail, comments on this entry or on FB are all acceptable, as well as in-person propositions.

Good luck!


Transnational Art 2013: The Final Day

Let me start by giving SoHo gallery - Naoko "Goldie"-san and Celio - my warmest thanks. The event was amazing: well organised, great attention to details, and very popular. They constantly push me to go further, it's hard to live up to their expectations, but in the end it's definitely worth. Every year they raise the bar higher, and make no mistakes, they'll confidently and successfully raise it again in the future.

The last day, Sunday, was quite popular with crowds. Not so surprisingly considering it was the weekend and the positive feedback the exhibition has been getting.

I came with Kaz, and the kawaiis still resonates in my ears.

I had interesting talks with Kim (NSFW, and sadly, for now at least, his Ama diver series is missing), and both being fathers, in addition to art, we had other more worldly topics to discuss.

Tessei came by with some pictures he took of me; one to sign, more to receive.

Kit was there again, and although we didn't talk as much as the previous night, there was no need to.

Sho, from Lagoa do Abaete, arrived at the end, and he had little time to explore the exhibition, but he seemed to thoroughly enjoy, pouring over artists' portfolios.

And all too soon, time for the take down came ringing, and it was quite a sad experience. Being much easier and faster, people were in and out in no time, without much cooperation, unlike the installation. Rather quickly, I felt pretty alone in the empty gallery, not yet realizing that it will probably take about a year to re-experience the same community feeling I had throughout the exhibit.

In my mind, art is about expression and communion; I certainly felt them during the whole week. We might have our differences, but dialogue is at the heart of our existence.

I leave you wish a shot from the last day, and some captures I took slowly walking back home, trying to hold on to those feelings for as long as I could. Click to enlarge, and enjoy.

Thanks for coming, Sho


Transnational Art 2013: Day 5

While I might have given the impression that on weekdays the exhibition wasn't too busy, although it was, yesterday Saturday saw some very good crowds going in and out throughout the day. Maybe they were interested in the art talks and performances, but I'd like to think they were there to enjoy the art and some discussions with the artists.

I reconnected with Japan Times writer and photographer Kit Pancoast, and we spent a good deal of time together talking with other artists and guests. It was a wonderful afternoon.

In the evening, I accompanied her to the station, which turned into a long walk along the Chuo-dori, into the Midosuji, all the way to Umeda. Of course, put two photographers on a walk together, and very soon it turns into a photowalk. We exchanged ideas, tips, and fed off each other. I don't know if I'd enjoy regular photowalks, but doind it with someone as engaging as her certainly was a good experience.

We then decided to go for a drink, and with her backstreet flair, Kit found a great little bar. We got inside, the welcome was courteous and sincere, and seeing a Guinness sign, we both went for it. Near the end of our first, she spotted some glowing blue and pink bottles on the bar and got intrigued. Ordering our second, we approached the bar to take a look at the bottles and other gems on the bar.

That's when we spotted it. A NBA trophy. No, not the National Basketball Association, but the Nippon Bartender Association. First prize. Then it came back to me. I remembered reading about this place, but I had no idea of its exact location. Leaving later and speaking with the master, we apologized for ordering beer, but that's really what we felt like. However, I will need to go back to Blossom and order a cocktail with one of the premium rums the bar boasts.

All in all, an excellent day in excellent company. We all need more of those.

Before I go, today Sunday is the last day of the exhibition. Come early as it closes in the middle of the afternoon. Hope to see you there, I'm planning to go with my son.

Kit doing her presentation
Danielle Fatkin with her friends
People enjoying Tomoya Imamura's video

Finish Line

Space Invaders