Tokyo Is For Lovers...
Whether you are an art lover, neon lover, adventure lover, arcade lover, book lover, cat lover, music lover, fashion lover, or about any other type of lover you can think of, Tokyo has what you are looking for. But, there is one type of lover that I especially relate to: photography lovers.
Sure, it is easy to find photo galleries and camera service centers. Within minutes, you can find Nikon and Canon stores and hipster camera stores selling leather straps. But, it is even quicker to find an interesting subject to make a photo of in Tokyo.
In photography chat groups and popular discussion boards, I see a topic tirelessly repeated amongst my colleagues. Many photographers endlessly complain about how they would shoot "better" photographs if they lived in a place that was inspirational to them. Photographers from all over the world seem to grumble about their current home base.
Everyday I hear photographers claim that there is "nothing to shoot." Sadly, these shutterbugs want to turn their lens on a world that they don't know, instead of the world they do. While I too love travel photography, I get just as much satisfaction pointing my camera at everything Tokyo.
Even though I have lived in Asia for eight years, I am still constantly inspired by the surroundings of my adoptive home. People watching on the inbound and outbound trains never gets old, nor do the lights and glitz of Ginza, gloved taxi drivers, ginko trees, elderly women sweeping temples, fashionable youth of Koenji, or the neighborhood fruit vendors. I love photographing the back alleys and seeing the seasons change within the confines of the city. I adore the delicate food and the massive power towers. Even a single cigarette butt on the sidewalk is fascinating (seeing that there is hardly ever litter to be found in Tokyo) and worthy of a snapshot.
For those photographers with a drive to shoot "something different," I urge you to revisit what you already know. Take a deep look at what, at first glance, appears to be mundane and then get all Matrix with it. "Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead only try to realize the truth... There is no spoon. Then you will see that it is not the spoon that bends but only yourself." See the mundane in a new way and challenge yourself to photograph what you know in ways that you didn't know were possible.
Tokyo remains a city for lovers; especially photography lovers. But, Tokyo isn't the only city for image makers, for image lovers. Photographers should be able to find and shoot inspirational frames in any place they call home.
Other Recommended Posts
Photographers are Storytellers
Photography has the power to give viewers a glimpse into another's life. Just as much, photographers have the opportunity to lead their viewers through complex narratives. Every photographer wants to shoot meaningful work that resonates with viewers and carries narrative weight. But sometimes a photographer can't tell the who story with a single image.
By mindfully shooting collections of images, photographers can create a series that explicitly tells a more complex story. But what types of images should a photographer take and use in their collections?
Learn more about how I shoot collections for greater storytelling in my full article written exclusively for my friends at Digital Photography School. here.
More Content For Photographers
Last Saturday I woke up, had a shower, greeted the wife, kissed the child, and sat down at Voltron (the name I have affectionately given my desk) to start a day of photography related tasks. I typically procrastinate for a few minutes and this particular morning was no different. I wanted to ease into the day by having a cup of coffee or two. I also wanted to distract myself before any editing in Lightroom, blogging, or planning another fall portrait session here in Tokyo. I looked for the closet distraction. I picked up the ole iPhone and loaded up my Instagram account.
Once you open the app, Instagram tells you what is the what. You know... Who has liked your photos, sent you a message, tagged, or mentioned you in a comment. I am always curious to see the tags. Most of the time I get tagged by spammers who really want to help me "grow my Instagram following." If it isn't one of those annoying entrepreneurs, it is another photographer who wants to increase their reach by tagging everyone they ever met. Of course my curiosity got the best of me and I pressed one of the tag notifications that had appeared overnight.
To my surprise, I found the following post:
Now, I don't know @schwarzmarc. I certainly don't live in Salzburg, Austria. Nor do I plan to save the date for a photowalk being held in central Europe (plane tickets are just too expensive and I can't really justify taking several days off of work for an afternoon stroll around the cobblestoned streets of Salzburg). But, I did take the photograph being featured in Mr. Schwarz's post.
Naturally, my eyes were drawn to the red and black type printed all over the bottom of my frame. Almost as big as the photograph's intended subject are the the logos of 5oopx (one of the worlds biggest photo sharing websites) and Red Bull (the world's most popular energy drink). Obviously, the two giants are sponsoring world-wide photo walks and needed images to promote the various walks being held.
Still, I was perplexed as to why my photograph was being used without my knowledge or permission. Seeing that I hadn't really procrastinated enough, I decided to chase the rabbit down the hole.
My first stop was 500px, a site that hosts thousands upon thousands of individual photographer's work. In all honesty, 500px is a wonderful platform to puruse the work of other photographers as well as a place to showcase some of my own work. I had "discovered" many photographers and have found a lot of inspiration on the platform. Another great thing about 500px is that photographers can license images for commercial and/or editorial use. While photographs are not often purchased from this service (at least mine aren't), 500px still gives photographers the chance of having their work sold for a modest price.
Navigating to my 500px profile, I quickly found my shot called "Gentle Flow," the image in question. As I suspected, I did not have any notifications that the image had been purchased. In fact, there were no messages at all in my account cache from 500px let alone Red Bull. There, plain as day on the right hand side of the page were the purchase and licensing options: 49.00 dollars for a web-ready version, 149.00 for the retina display, and 249.00 for the print ready version. Hmmm...
My mind wandered to that Rihanna song.
Before getting too flustered, I decided to see if the image appeared anywhere else online. I headed over to our trusty friend Google and, within seconds, found several search results. The sunrise photograph I had taken in Salzburg, Austria on a Christmas morning was the banner for a Facebook event group, being used on 500px's Global Photo Walk homesite, and had been featured on several Instagram accounts (some with many, many more followers than @schwarzmarc's account).
I was surprised at the visual variety my photo had across the different platforms. I also pondered the text and/or blank space that did or did not accompany my work. Some users credited me with a tag (thank you to those folks) and some were simply spreading the "500px version" which includes a generic 500px watermark placed vertically on the upper left of the frame.
A theory popped into my mind about my image of that beautiful Austrian morning and why it was being used without my knowledge. To confirm my theory, I returned to 500px and searched for the service's terms and conditions.
The Fine Print
Every social platform that hosts creative content has terms and conditions that clearly define the rights of the service and the rights of the user. If not, the company would be begging for a lawsuit. 500px is no exception. Just like most respectable platforms for photo sharing, 500px has clearly defined terms for content submitted to their site. With little effort, I navigated to the page I had failed to read prior to creating my 500px account.
Many image hosting websites have similar terms of service. Even if there isn't an "I agree" button to quickly click and dismiss, users are agreeing to the posted terms when they submit content for hosting. Depending on the host, a photographer is acknowledging and/or agreeing to a slew of terms.
Reading 500px's terms for the first time, I was primarily drawn to the third bullet.
"The license granted to 500px includes the right to use Visual Content fully or partially for promotional reasons and to distribute and redistribute Visual content to other parties, websites, authorized agents, applications, and other entities, provided such Visual Content is attributed in accordance with the credits (i.e. username or collection name, profile picture, photo title, descriptions, tags, and other accompanying information) is any and as appropriate, as submitted to 500px."
And there it was in black and white. Case closed. I had unknowingly given my permission for 500px and "other parties" to use my photograph.
Why should photographers read the fine print?
As photographers, we are eager to share our work, our vision with the world. We upload ourselves daily to an army of platforms in the hopes of being discovered, acknowledged, and praised. We just want to be seen. But in our zealous self-promotion, we are often too eager. By reading terms of service statements, we are choking up on the reigns of ambition. By slowing down and acknowledging the fine print, we can begin to be more discerning about the avenues in which we share our art.
500px's use of my photograph is such a minor example of how photographers can be blindsided by their own ambition. In fact, I commend 500px and similar sites for posting their terms of service. They are, at the very least, being transparent in their terms.
At the end of the day, my photo wasn't stolen by Richard Prince and Calvin Klein didn't knick my photographic vision. The reality is much different. I was given some form of credit by 500px. But more, my photograph was being used to promote the act of photography, one of my greatest passions in life.
It doesn't matter if five or five million people saw the mediocre photo I took. What matters is that we, as photographers, become more present in our zest to share our work with the world. One of the first steps to a more refined approach to social sharing is to read the fine print.
Has the fine print ever got you? I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments section.
Everyone Knows Who Pete DeMarco Is...
I first met Pete DeMarco outside of Korea's World Trade Center. We both happened to have a photograph hanging in a group exhibition at the annual Seoul Photo trade show. Before viewing the exhibition, a large group of photographers decided to meet outside the event hall and go into the massive show together.
Even though I had just met a lot of new people for the first time, it was easy to remember Pete. DeMarco stood several inches above anyone else in the group. He was a bit older than I was at the time and he was starting to gray a bit on the sides. I remember being immediately jealous of his dashing, Clooney-ish looks and impressive stature (so odd to be jealous of someone's DNA). But, even if I was blind I would have still been able to find Pete in the group. I quickly learned that he hosts an infectious laugh.
After our collective meeting, the massive group of photographers decided to have a drink before heading into Seoul's Coex exhibition hall. We found a pub nearby and, just like any event with too many people (more than 4 people in any given room is too much for me), little pods broke off, ordered their beers, and started right in on the usual photography "meet-up" chatter.
Most photographers were quick to assemble themselves at the circular tables, But there were a handful of us that hugged the bar saloon style. I was happy that Pete was one who rode the bar. Like every other photographer in that overpriced watering hole, I knew the name Pete DeMarco. I was familiar with his work and, while I don't remember the particulars of our conversation, I do remember that I greatly enjoyed his company. I was intrigued to learn more about Pete and what makes him tick.
A few years later I knew Pete relatively well. We often used each other as sounding boards and supported each other in various ways. We even took the twelve-week Artist's Way class together. After spending those hours with Pete in a "creative cluster," I still wanted to know more about the expat photographer who is just as comfortable hanging off of a roof to get a shot as he is in a mosque taking someone's portrait. I wanted to learn more about him as a person who, like me, has the need to create. So, I cornered the full time professional photographer and asked him a few questions.