Tokyo Story

What a great movie.  1953.  Some say it’s slow paced but the emotion and realism is amazing.  I read somewhere that the director’s movies were not brought to an international audience because his movies were too ‘Japanese’.  I would totally disagree with this as the plot line is really universal:

Elderly couple Shukishi and Tomi Hirayama live in the small coastal village of Onomichi, Japan with their youngest daughter, schoolteacher Kyoko Hirayama. Their other three surviving adult children, who they have not seen in quite some time, live either in Tokyo or Osaka. As such, Shukishi and Tomi make the unilateral decision to have an extended visit in Tokyo with their children, pediatrician Koichi Hirayama and beautician Shige Kaneko, and their respective families (which includes two grandchildren). In transit, they make an unexpected stop in Osaka and stay with their other son, Keiso Hirayama. All of their children treat the visit more as an obligation than a want, each trying to figure out what to do with their parents while they continue on with their own daily lives. At one point, they even decide to ship their parents off to an inexpensive resort at Atami Hot Springs rather than spend time with them. The only offspring who makes a concerted effort on this trip is Noriko

Noriko played by Setsuko Hara:

Setsuko Hara became one of Japan’s best-loved stars over her 30-year film career. Her signature character type, variations on a daughter devoted to her parents and home, inspired the nickname that stayed with her until retirement: the Eternal Virgin. To some extent, reality mirrored her roles in these films. In a society that considers marriage and parenting almost obligatory, she remained single and childless, something of a controversy in Japan in the 1950s. Fortunately she was popular enough to avoid criticism, but the 1950s were still a hard decade. She was plagued by ill health, missing out on several top roles as a result, and she witnessed the death of her camera-man brother in a freak train accident on set.

In 1963, shortly after the death of her mentor, director Yasujirô Ozu, she suddenly walked away from the film industry. At age 43, and at the height of her popularity, she bluntly refused to perform again, angering her fans, the industry, and the press. She implied acting had never been a pleasure and that she had only pursued a career in order to provide for her large family; this explanation is seen as the cause of her popularity backlash. She moved to a small house in picturesque Kamakura where she remained, living alone (though apparently sociable with friends), and refusing all roles offered.

She is undoubtedly known mostly for her work with Yasujiro Ozu, making six films with the great director, including the so-called Noriko trilogy, of which Tokyo Story (1953) is probably the best-known. She also worked with Akira KurosawaMikio NaruseHiroshi Inagaki, and many others.

Bad Pictures

So today I tried several things new in the film lab ( otherwise known as the guest bathroom).  One was the Cinestill TCS 1000 temperature control device.  I’ve tended to use liquid developers because they had high dilution factors making it easier to get the temperature correct.  Just get the tap water at the right temperature and then add the small amount of developer to the mix.  But this limits what developer you can use ( for example I shy away from D-76 either straight or 1:1 because of this). The TCS 1000 agitates and temperature corrects and it all seems to work well. 

The second adventure didn’t turn out so well.  I tried the FilmPhotographyProject version of the mono bath ( Develop-Stop-Fix) all in one solution. I made the mistake of not having it in the ‘soup’ long enough so the negatives came out under fixed.  The grain was huge!  I was using Kentmere 400.  They do warn that ISO at or above 400 may not do well with the mono bath.  I will give it another try with correcting these deficiencies of mine.


Plutopia is a book about the parallel plutonium plants - one in the US ( Hanford Washington) and the other in the former USSR ( Ozersk in the Souther Urals).   

These plants were used to produce plutonium for the arms race during the Cold War.  They went about it differently in some respects, and in others they were very similar.   Hanford had segregated living quarter - only whites with professional skills were given gorgeous homes, good schools and health care.  If you were an ordinary laborer you had to live in a shanty town which maybe on contaminated ground.  In Russia the whole facility was like a prison regardless if you were actually a prisoner or part of the technical team. During much of it’s existence Maiak ( Mayak) was cordoned off from the rest of Russia.  Eventually they learned that they could keep valuable workers if they treated them to consumer goods ( capitalism in the USSR !)

Here are some quotes from the book:

“the practices of plutopia: partitioning territory into “nuclear” and “clean” zones, skimping on safety and waste management to prioritize production, repressing information about accidents, forging safety records, deploying temporary “jumpers” to do dirty work, and glossing over sick workers and radioactive territories, all while treating select citizens to generous government subsidies and soothing public relations programs.”

“four decades of operation, the Hanford plutonium plant near Richland and the Maiak plant next to Ozersk each issued at least 200 million curies of radioactivity—twice what Chernobyl emitted—into the surrounding environment. The plants left behind hundreds of square miles of uninhabitable territory, contaminated rivers, soiled fields and forests, and thousands of people claiming to be sick from the plants’ radioactive effluence.”

There is an excellent article from The Japan Times on the Mayak plant

No Comment

My new self published book of Japan Photos taken on film .  This was from our October Trip to Japan.  I wanted a book that just showed photos without my stupid comments.  Only the last page has some text.  This was in addition to a book that I just completed that was more of documentary of out travels which is fine.

Void Tokyo

VoidTokyo is a street photography journal published by a dozen or so enthusiasts.  I purchased Vol 3 and 6 .  I was very impressed with the quality of the magazine and it’s printing.  The street photography scene in Tokyo appears to be very vibrant.  Why shouldn’t it be?  We spent a scant 48 hours in Tokyo and I definitely would love to go back.

Finally I shot the Moon

Over the last several years when I’ve tried taking a picture of the moon, it’s been a total disaster.  First I thought it was because of a filter over the lens, then not enough light.  Turns out all I needed was ISO 200, 1/125 @ f/8.  Boom done.

The Good, the bad, and the Ugly

Ebay finally bit me in the Butt.  I had heard that the Ricoh GR10 was a great little film point and shoot and half the price of it’s big brother the GR1.  I went to EBAY and bought one from Japan.  Described as EX++++.  Below is what I got

I left negative feedback and the seller wanted to know why.  I explained and uploaded the pictures.  In the end I decided to keep the camera with the hope that the seller learns a lesson.  On the good side are some of the quick grab shots that I got

Atomic Things

Growing up at the foot of Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs brought with it fear and paranoia.  This was the site of NORAD - North American Air Defense Command.  This is where they had “the big board” and could track all incoming and outgoing missiles.  Growing up during the Cold War we were acutely aware that this facility would be ground zero for an attack by the Russians.  During this time many kids would come to school with stories of their parents installing bomb shelters

My Dad with infinite wisdom said it wouldn’t help/matter and we could kiss our asses good bye if the attack ever came.  Not what an 8 year old wanted to hear.  Anyway ever since I’ve been interested in things nuclear.  Hence trips to Trinity Site, Hiroshima.  Below are a few books I’ve collected over the years to help with the anxiety

Which has led me to my new book project - a personal trip thru my anxiety and paranoia about things nuclear.

Photo Books

I decided that I should give away duplicates of the photo books I’ve done over the years.  I realized I made photo books at the drop of a hat - not a bad thing but I have a lot of them.  I have no idea if any of them are any good.  They are good enough for me.  Documenting events, trips, etc.  

Early Success is NOT a Predictor

I  visited the Museum of Contemporary Art here in Denver to see the exhibit of Francesca Woodman - a photographer that I DON’T hold in high esteem.  It was interesting that some of her early work is not bad compared to the photos that she took later on. Just us my opinion.

I had one her books and sold it soon after I got it.  Because I didn’t get was so earth shattering about her work.  In part I think her early death from suicide gives her work some bizarre cache’

Then I started to think about other photographers who started off Amazing and then went downhill.  The first to come to mind is Robert Frank whose The Americans is in my opinion THE best photography book ever published.  Then his stuff kind of goes to crap.

The first photo is as iconic as it gets.  The next two are totally forgettable.

The next person that came to mind was Roger Ballen

Same story here.  So early success is never a guarantee of lifelong success.

dekanta Contest

dekanta is the company that I bought my bottle of Yamazaki Whisky from.  They sent it from Japan and it came with white gloves!  They run a social media contest where they want you to take a picture of you holding your bottle with the white gloves.  For good measure because it is the 65th anniversary of Godzilla, I threw that at them.  We’ll see if this wins me any more of their whisky

Bauhaus at 100

The Kirkland Museum here in Denver is doing a celebration of 100 years since Bauhaus started:

Bauhaus, was a German art school operational from 1919 to 1933 that combined crafts and the fine arts, and was famous for the approach to design that it publicized and taught. The Bauhaus was founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar. The German term Bauhaus—literally “building house”—was understood as meaning “School of Building”, but in spite of its name and the fact that its founder was an architect, the Bauhaus did not initially have an architecture department. Nonetheless, it was founded upon the idea of creating a Gesamtkunstwerk (“‘total’ work of art”) in which all the arts, including architecture, would eventually be brought together. The Bauhaus style later became one of the most influential currents in modern design, Modernist architecture and art, design, and architectural education. The Bauhaus movement had a profound influence upon subsequent developments in art, architecture, graphic design, interior design, industrial design, and typography. The school existed in three German cities—Weimar, from 1919 to 1925; Dessau, from 1925 to 1932; and Berlin, from 1932 to 1933—under three different architect-directors: Walter Gropius from 1919 to 1928; Hannes Meyer from 1928 to 1930; and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe from 1930 until 1933, when the school was closed by its own leadership under pressure from the Nazi regime, having been painted as a centre of communist intellectualism. Although the school was closed, the staff continued to spread its idealistic precepts as they left Germany and emigrated all over the world.

by H. Bayer

by H. Bayer

There was special significance for Bauhaus trained artist, Herbert Bayer.  He came to settle in Aspen, Colorado in 1946 way before there was anything in Aspen other than clean air.  

Vicki and I visited Dessau in 2013 and stayed in the dorm on campus for one cold nite.  Northern Germany in November can be quite cold especially if you are clueless as to how to operate the heater!

Tokyo Drifter

In this jazzy gangster film, reformed killer Tetsu’s attempt to go straight is thwarted when his former cohorts call him back to Tokyo to help battle a rival gang. Director Seijun Suzuki’s onslaught of stylized violence and trippy colors is equal parts Russ Meyer, Samuel Fuller, and Nagisa Oshima—an anything-goes, in-your-face rampage. Tokyo Drifter is a delirious highlight of the brilliantly excessive Japanese cinema of the sixties. - Criterion Films

As 1960’s films go it wasn’t all that bad.  Considering that the studio gave them little money and only 20 to 25 days to shoot the film it’s really pretty amazing. Vicki didn’t fall asleep during it so that garners at least 3 stars right?

PreConceived Notion of Japanese Photography

This reviewing of modern Japanese photography has been a real eye opener.  I thought of Japanese photography as being like Haiku. bonsai, meal prep in Japan - very nice, orderly, calm and non-confrontational.  Sort of like Hiroshi Sugimoto’s work seen below

Instead I’m confronted with photographers like Araki and Daido who present in a chaotic manner, out of focus, huge grain.  Lesson learned!

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