Tokyo is a favorite tourist destination for a reason; the bipolarity of old and new reverberates. Photographer Stijn Hoekstra strolls around the streets of Tokyo and tells the little stories and details he managed to accumulate in the picturesque city.
Here's our exclusive interview with Stijn.
Hi Stijn, welcome to Lomography Magazine! Firstly, what attracts you to the city streets?
Hi there, it is so great that you showed interest in my work, I still own a Lomo camera and the results always amazes me.
I love being on the streets and not knowing what's going to be behind the next corner, there is always movement and nothing gets repeated, there is no second chance for a photo opportunity which makes it a challenge but can also be frustrating. Taking pictures for me is all about framing, light and a subject, therefore you sometimes have to wait on the right corner to get what you want and is in your mind, it takes a lot of patience and some luck.
Tokyo is one of the unique cities in the world. Describe to us what the city was like at first sight.
Tokyo was such an extraordinary city to me, I was there for a documentary about a flower artist named Azuma Makoto. He is a very well known artist in the flower scene and is known for his flower ice sculptures and he even sent a bonsai tree into space. He's a very interesting person for a documentary while filming.
I didn't have much time for taking photographs so I got up every day before shooting to hit the streets and take photos and after a day of shooting I returned to the streets taking more photos.
I was fortunate that I got to stay a bit longer to take some more photos, although the sun didn't show that much I still really enjoyed taking pictures in Tokyo. The city and its inhabitants are so organized, nothing like I have ever seen in any other city. The streets are spotless and the only thing you hear is the noise of the cars. Riding the subway is also a great way to have a good insight in the city, it's often very crowded but everybody stays waiting in lines and everyone is minding their own business. The great thing about working in another city is that you get to know the people you work with, and how they live.
If you can photograph one place forever, what would it be and why?
That's a tough one, and for me not possible to answer. I just returned from a 4-week holiday in which I visited Cuba for three weeks and one week I stayed in New York. Havana has everything you need as a photographer, the old cars, the great buildings and the people are great for taking portraits, the whole city just looks like one big movie set. New York is totally different and the energy that goes on 24/7 is addictive, the architecture is just stunning and screams to be photographed. But there are also other great cities that I visited the past years and were also very photogenic. For my photography light is very important, I love hard shadows and if combined with great architecture and a subject I'm happy.
The streets are where the stories are. What were the stories, revelations, and discoveries you found in Tokyo?
I think that the government is the biggest employer in Japan, so there is a guy for everything, preferably more than one. They are very committed to their jobs and often make such long hours. The Japanese people are very polite and have great manners.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Whom are your muses?
As for street photography, I love the works of William Eggleston, and then especially the color series. On my recent visit to New York, I've stumbled upon a book by Richard Sandler, who took great photographs on the street of New York in which the events that are shown makes you either laugh or think about what the hell is going on in the picture. As for commercial photographers, I love the photo's of Laurent Nivalle and Kalle Gustafsson, both great photographers with very powerful framing and color grading. But my list keeps getting bigger as there are so many great photographers out there, I really enjoy browsing the web looking for great pictures to get some new inspiration from.
If you could work or collaborate with any photographer, who would it be?
There are so many photographers who I would love to see working or collaborate with, the ones mentioned above would be on that list. But I would really enjoy spending some time with Steve McCurry and follow him while he takes his photographs.
Describe to us -- what's a day in the life of Stijn Hoekstra?
Well for the past 4 weeks I have just been taking photographs every day while on holiday. I get up before sunrise and just go into a direction, not knowing what to find. The first light is always so beautiful no matter where you are, and then after a day of taking pictures and wondering the streets, I wait for sunset to take some more and sometimes stay in the streets for some night photography. When I'm not on a holiday I try to take pictures in my hometown Amsterdam or any other place that I visit. By now I know a lot of good places to take pictures and when the light is right I often visit them waiting for that subject to enter my frame. Next to taking pictures I'm also a cinematographer, it's what I actually studied and I still work on projects like commercials, documentaries or corporate movies. In many ways photography and film share a lot in common but are still very different from each other. There is more time to explain something in film while with photography you only have one frame to tell the story.
What do you usually do during your downtime? Any on-going project, or other plans you're keen to work on?
I recently rented a photo studio with a good friend of mine. It's in an old factory and has high windows with beautiful light coming in. Until recently I took most of my portraits on location, with now having a studio and all of the equipment I'm looking forward taking portraits and experimenting with light. It's also nice to have a place to go to for editing pictures which I first did at my house but wasn't ideal. Now that I'm back there is a big pile of pictures of Cuba and New York waiting to be edited, that will take some time. And next to this I will continue with my commercial projects and corporate photography, hoping for that next project that will take me to another beautiful city for taking pictures.