Photographer and Lomographer Marek Majewski, a.k.a. marek__ share to us his story on the Land of the Rising Sun in light of the worldwide pandemic. Marek is keeping a monthly diary of Tokyo streets – and it's through his black and white photographs where we find his sensibility for the documentary genre.
For Marek, it's been very comfortable and easy to go on about his day-to-day routine in Tokyo. Many people wear masks, and social distancing is already anchored in Japanese culture. Restrictive lockdowns didn't take place but many are high alert with extra precautions.
According to him, there are social codes and cues many follow in Tokyo that easily influence how he captures his photograph, as he observes them as well. A culture that puts respect and consideration for others at high esteem has made his routine also secure and comfortable.
"This abundance of codes can also lead to a kind of social pressure. There is an interesting Japanese quote that can sum up what I try to mean: « Deru kugi wa utareru » (出る杭は打たれる), which can be translated as: «The nail that sticks out gets hammered in»."
Marek still notes that Tokyo rapidly changes the way it is. Tokyo further aims to be global through the organization for the Olympics games and their great efforts to adapt to foreigners. At the same time, Japanese culture itself is conservative and change. The dichotomy of these two has led to interesting contrasts that Marek wants to follow.
Through photography, he remains an objective spectator of the changing social landscape.
"When I shoot the streets I try not to think too much. Most of these photos are snapshots. Shooting street is a kind of meditation for me, I’m just here, feeling the atmosphere, the lights, people's faces, and actions, just observing. It's very relaxing in fact. I try to capture the streets without too much interfering with subjects, I want to capture it as it is."
He often uses the Foma 400 film with his Olympus XA2 point-and-shoot camera, a very lightweight gear meant for his daily routine. He also uses Ilford HP5, Delta 3200 film with a Nikon FM2/Nikkor 55 mm lens or a Canon AE-1 with the Canon 35 mm lens. He would process his photographs accumulated over per month by renting a darkroom.
Marek's images of Tokyo are captured in black and white. He loves how monochrome makes it easier to express feelings of sadness and solitude, especially in the city.
"Looking back to my photography, I’ve often tried to photograph the solitude, oppression of big cities, or contrasts between childhood happiness and the adult harsh world. Tokyo may be one of the densest cities in the world, you can sometimes feel very alone there."
It goes without saying that shooting in black and white makes one pay attention to details more.
Though Japan is no longer in a state of emergency, there are still some precautions being observed. The tourists are less due to Japan imposing an entry ban on many countries. The buzzing streets are also less with crowds. Marek mentions that it's usually this time of the year when Tokyo and Japan hold many huge events. This year was less colorful.
Lately, Marek is into large format:
"From the moment I’m trying to get used to the process of shooting LF, which is way different from my approach of street photography. I really love keeping experimenting. I hope I can show you some nice results soon."
Marek is also hoping that more focus and culture with alternative photography printing, such as cyanotype and carbon printing, will emerge.