Tokyo Crossing explored the spatial tension between pedestrians, light, and the urban landscape. I composed so that lines and shapes were competing for attention—the play of color, light and shadow causing an optical resonance in the viewer, a feeling that something is about to happen. I tried to exploit the everyday complexity of Tokyo, to prove that there’s harmony in the chaos of competing architectural, industrial, and human aesthetics, that there’s poetry in the anonymous, accidental choreography of crossing a busy street.
This project was an exercise in formalist abstraction, an attempt to merge foreground and background, to unite all the repeating elements of the frame into a balanced design. My hope was to challenge conventional notions of street photography, to create beautiful mysteries out of random collisions of people, light, and space.
Most of these photographs were shot around the Shibuya section of Tokyo between 2002 and 2006 with a Leica M6. Aside from basic manipulations of saturation, levels, and curves in post-processing, the images are very close to how I composed in camera. The files are a mixture of scanned 35mm negative and slide film along with direct digital captures.
—2006, Tokyo & New York
Prints from the Tokyo Crossing portfolio are digital inkjet prints, usually 13x19".
Slow shutter speeds in Shibuya with the Leica M6.
During the creation of Tokyo Crossing, my father was dying. He had fallen in 2005 and suffered a brain bleed and had been in a coma for months. We'd had a very complicated relationship, one marked by absences and the tensions of the old world immigrant and his new world son. On the last day of one of my "limbo" trips, with a return flight to NYC later that afternoon, I knew that this visit in the hospital was likely my last. Walking to the hospital, I saw death in everything I photographed. A feelilng of trapped decay, but with an aspiration for relief. I played Bach for him as I monologued uncomfortably about how I felt. After I squeezed his hand, a tear dribbled out of one of his vacant unmoving eyes. I was already feeling loss as I walked back to the train station under a clouding sky and photographed the familiar neighborhoods as if to convert them into some kind of nostalgia. A few hours later as I was checking in for my flight at Narita, I was paged by my brother and received the news: Papa was dead.
These are a few pictures from March 6-9, 2006, which include my last visit, the wake and the cremation day, as well as a few documentary photos from his youth. My obsession with Araki had prepared me a bit for the Buddhist death rituals--one of his early autobiographical and best books, Sentimental Journey, had moved me very much when I discovered it in the eaqrly 1990s with its loving documentation of his marriage in the 1970s and updated with his wife Yoko's death from cancer. (Another Araki small masterpiece is Fuyu E--Tokyo: a City Heading for Death --with its black and white pairings of neighborhoods and erotic counterpoints, he completed right after her death.) The anticipated, but abruptness of his death marked an end to one of my relationships to Japan, and with that, the end of Tokyo Crossing.