Featured Photophile No. 010 – Yoshi’s Japanese Street Photography

Featured Photophile No. 010 – Yoshi’s Japanese Street Photography

2000 1333 James Tocchio

Featured Photophile, our recurring segment showcasing talented amateur photographers is back with more photo inspiration for you. And this time we’re bringing you the work of a really talented young shooter from Japan.

Yoshi’s work shows a vision and intuitiveness that’s rare in this sometimes overly-regulated hobby, and his thoughts on the craft and his place within it display the kind of keen introspection that’s really uncommon in someone so young (he’s only 19). Looking through his work it’s easy to imagine that this young shooter has a bright future in the world of photography.

Check it out.

Hi there – please introduce yourself. 

Hi, my name is Yoshiro Takamura. Thank you for having me. I am 19 years old and just entered Kyoto University last April. I really love old things. For example, I like old cameras (1950s to ’70s models) and old Japanese pop idols from the 1970s and ’80s. And this taste seriously influences my pictures.

When did you start shooting? What’s your favorite camera, and why do you love it? What type of film do you use, and why? 

I started taking pictures when I was still in junior high school. My friend said to me, “Let’s join the photo club together.” At that moment, I was not interested in photos or cameras at all. But I joined because I had nothing else to do. After joining the club, my grandfather (who passed away few years ago) gave me his Minolta SRT Super with MC Rokkor 50mm F1.4, which he bought in 1973 to shoot family snap shots. This is my first camera, and this Minolta made me realize how difficult and interesting taking photos is.

A few years later I bought a Voigtlander Vitessa with Ultron 50mm F/2, and thanks to it, I notice the strong points of rangefinder cameras; they are light and easy to focus. These points are important for snap shooting. So now I really love rangefinder cameras. Later I got a Canon P and Contax T, and a few months ago I bought a Leica M3, which is the best camera for me because M3 is so nice (in terms of the looks, size, and weight) that I feel as if the M3 were a part of my body. I use a Zeiss C Sonnar 50mm F/1.5 lens because I think it’s best for snapshots (you’ll find it’s true when you see the pictures made by Bresson, who usually used 50mm lens), and I love this lens because it is small, relatively sharp, and has unique atmosphere.

I use black-and-white negative film (ISO 400) because it is best for my style. I need ISO 400 films because I often shoot underground (where it’s darker than under sunlight). At first, I used Fujifilm Neopan Presto 400, but now it’s not available. So, these days I always use Kodak Tri-x 400. I love the grain. I seldom use color negative films because my pictures look better in black and white. But I use color negative during summer to take high-contrast and vivid color snapshots at Kobe.

What are your favorite subjects, and why? 

I like to see other photographers’ portraiture because I think human beings are the most difficult and interesting subjects, but I don’t want to take these kinds of photos myself because I’m shy, seriously. Instead, I take street snapshots because when taking snapshots we can take pictures of people and we don’t have to speak to the subject (of course sometimes the subject isn’t human).

As I said before, I like old things, so I love to go to big cities (Osaka or Kobe, mostly) and search for old school places, architecture, and people. I was born in 1998, so that means almost everything I see is older than me. Ideally my favorite subjects are even older than my parents. I don’t wish I could time-travel and go to the world in 1980s, but it’s very mysterious and fantastic to me that older people have known a world decades before my birth. So, I like to take snapshots of old things.

Why do you shoot film? Do you also shoot digital? What do you think about the differences between film and digital?

When I use film cameras, I consider more than usual because film is so expensive, and this makes my pictures better. Moreover, I just began to print in the darkroom of my photo club (Kyoto University Photo Club) and I realized that printing by myself is very exciting! So I love to shoot with film.

I sometimes use digital cameras. Mostly I use them to take color pictures. I used to use Canon’s DSLR, but now I feel they are too heavy. After that, I bought Fujifilm X100 and Sigma DP2 Quattro. They are light and have different character. I once took many snapshots with X100 and the result was not bad. I think my photography improved thanks to snapshot practice with this Fuji. And I still often use Sigma DP because the result is so sharp and the tone is just amazing. The weak point of DP is the slow autofocus, so it’s hard to take snapshot with it. I take non-street snapshot with it. For example, it’s nice to take landscape and camera-porn pictures.

The difference between film and digital is almost impossible to explain in words. It is still difficult if I am asked to explain in my own language, because there are many difference and some of them are quite slight. But I don’t think we should use only one of them. I want to use both effectively.

What is unique about your work?

I don’t think my work is so unique. I just take pictures of old things I like. But it seems that many foreign photographers like my work though not so many Japanese people like it. I think my pictures are too old-fashioned for Japanese people and are unique for foreign people. But it doesn’t matter to me. All I need to do is to take pictures.

How do you achieve your results?

I sometimes buy or borrow photobooks of old great photographers such as Henri Cartier Bresson, Josef Koudelka, Izis, Martin Parr, Hiroh Kikai, and Shoji Ueda. They really influence my photography (you may find some of my works are like their pictures). For example, I visited the Sea of Japan and Tottori sand dunes, where Shoji Ueda often made his great work. He once said, “Tottori Sand dunes is non-artificial photo studio.” I found it’s true. There was only human, sand, sea, and no artificial thing. It was very beautiful.

Where do you hope your photography goes from here?

Right now I am thinking about changing my style. I think my street snapshots are good, but other kinds of my pictures are not. So, I think I should begin to take other types of photos to improve myself. To tell the truth, I will stop shooting black-and-white film for a while! This is my trial. I think this trial will have good influence on my photography and I will do better when I come back to black-and-white film. I hope I will find a new way to visualize what I am feeling.

Do you have any advice for new photographers?

If you are interested in taking pictures, you should take pictures right now. You’ll find that photography is difficult but fun. After that, you’ll want a special camera of your own. You’ll have difficulty deciding which camera to buy, but you should not think about the specifications, reputation, or price. You should choose one which is best for you in terms of the appearance! I think you can’t regret the purchase if you choose a camera you think is beautiful. I hope many young people start to take pictures because photography can broaden our perspective.

To see more of Yoshi’s photography follow him on Instagram. And if you’ll be in Kyoto anytime soon, direct message him on Instagram for details on visiting his photo clubs upcoming exhibitions.

Many thanks to Yoshi for sharing his work with us. If you’d like to have your photos featured on Casual Photophile, tag your photos with #featuredphotophile on any social media post, or send a message to Contact@FStopCameras.com. 

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio
  • Merlin Marquardt July 5, 2017 at 1:20 pm

    Very nice.

  • the6millionpman July 5, 2017 at 4:35 pm

    Really interesting read and some lovely images Yoshi.

  • Wow, nice work! Thank you both for sharing this.

  • Excellent photography Yoshi. You have a good eye for interesting compositions. It’s funny to me now, but when I lived in Yokohama in the late 1970s I never shot black and white because it was not in vogue at the time. Everyone I knew had brand new gear like F-1s and Nikons with great glass, so color reversal film was all the rage (Kodachrome 25 and Ektachrome 64). So why is it funny? I think of Japan with all of its wonderful natural beauty, the shrines and temples, the busy cities and wonderful people and I can only think of it in color! Even the dark side streets in the small shopping districts looked great in their subdued colors. Looking back I wish that I had shot a few rolls of B&W. All the best in your future photographic endeavors.

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio