3 min read

Seeing the Past in the Present - and Vice Versa.

Seeing the Past in the Present - and Vice Versa.

Hello everyone! Daniel Sofer, your daily photographer friend here. Kyoto is warm and very green these days, maybe my favorite time of the year.

I woke up this morning to two emails that made me think. 

One was from my online friend Craig Mod, who has just started a walk along the Tokaido (Eastern Sea Road), one of the Edo era roadways between Kyoto and Edo (now Tokyo), famously depicted by Utagawa Hiroshige in 1832. The Tokaido Shinkansen essentially follows this road. 

Craig Mod yesterday on the Kyoto Sanjo Ohashi Bridge, at the start of his walk.

Anyway, Craig started from Kyoto yesterday, going all the way to Tokyo in 18 days(!). His first photo is of himself touching Kyoto’s recently renewed Sanjo Ohashi Bridge, the end point of the Tokaido. He writes about what he is seeing and thinking on his walk. He's been doing this several years; he’s written a couple books, which will probably be the end result of this walk as well. 

His writing is always great, but he's carrying three cameras; two Leicas and a Hasselblad. That's a lot of weight to carry, walking 40km each day. I'm not carrying that much stuff even across town, not at my age. 😆

Yesterday, Craig made it Otsu or a little beyond, which is the Post Town station before Kyoto, before the end of the Tokaido Road. About 10 minutes by train these days. He talked to some people and took some pictures. That's basically what he does. It's kind of cool. He'll write a little newsletter, an email every night for the next 2 weeks or so, then it will end. If you’re interested in following his adventures, you can subscribe here...

The thing that's cool to me about these walks is that Craig is walking paths that have been trodden for hundreds of years. They still exist, even if they are sometimes more like expressways than the photo below. That's what I mean about seeing the past in the present - the past still lives, even if many are too occupied with their daily lives to notice.

The Tokaido road in 1865, photographed by Felice Beato.

The other email was from Lee Varis. We used to run a Lightroom user group together in Los Angeles, but he moved to Boston and I moved to Japan; so we’re just online friends now.

Lee was just in New York leading a photo workshop. Lee and his wife Bobbi explore photogenic places in New York and around the world. They take pictures, they talk about seeing, and they help their participants improve their photography. New York City is a vintage place in many respects, just like Kyoto is. 

Kyoto Arashiyama - using the TinType app.

Anyway, his newsletter email was about using the Hipstamatic TinType app for iPhone, that makes your pictures look like tintypes or wet collodion prints, which are photography processes from the 19th century. All those Civil War photos by Matthew Brady are tintype photos.

Anyway, I'm downloading the app and we'll play with it and see, because there are some things around here that would lend themselves to that kind of very old-school treatment. Making the present seem like the past.

Another thing I've been experimenting with recently is making photographs look more like illustrations. I love the flat color of Ukiyo-e prints (like the Hiroshige's Tokaido series, linked above) and I've been experimenting with a process using Adobe Illustrator to create a more illustrated type effect. More to come...

Illustrated photo of Kitano Tenmangu at night.

Daniel Sofer