I am not a fan of architectural photographs.
Intellectually, I know that skyscrapers are marvels of engineering, science and technology. But as photographic subject matter? Eh. I find them cold and uninspiring. Steel towers of glass and concrete cast shadows that look the same whether in Tokyo, Toronto and New York. This is particularly true on week-ends when the buildings are empty and the streets are silent.
I went to Shinjuku’s skyscraper district on our last day in Tokyo. It was a wet and wintry Saturday, so the streets were mostly empty and although there were people around, they were in the station and underground walkways.
Above ground, taking photos of the buildings, I tried to inject life and depth into the scene. In one case, it involved framing the shot and waiting for someone to walk by. In another, it was capturing skeletal trees and reflections. However, I found the photos disappointing. They looked exactly like it felt. Chilly. Cold. Sterile. I probably would have trashed them all, if I hadn’t taken an accidental walk through some tombstones.
We’d seen a neighborhood cemetary from an overhead viewing deck. Tucked in between buildings and hidden from the road, it was unidentified on maps but obviously old. The burial plots were covered with moss and worn smooth with age. The wooden sotobas, neat and straight, offered a warm visual contrast to the dark stone. Together they were monuments to life, death and human endurance. I framed the scene with the skyscrapers in the background, the glass towers providing a distant echo of their homage. This picture redeemed the day for me.
Nishi-Shinjuku, Tokyo. January 2016