Tokyo Street Photography


Tokyo is a photographer’s city.
The people and places of this city add character to the living mural of the streets. The narrow winding alleyways of Tokyo funnel people through the old and the new; the multiple layers of the city create shape and pattern that is distinctively Tokyo. The mixture of light, fashion, dirt, and concrete creates a complex visual form that inspires me.

I have always had an interest in photography, but it was not until I came to Tokyo that I discovered my passion for shooting the streets.



Reviewing shots

Reviewing some shots over a coffee somewhere in Ebisu.


When I first started shooting in Japan

The first camera that I shot Tokyo with was a Fujifilm X100S rangefinder-style digital that I bought at Yodobashi Camera in early 2013. I used it extensively but I found that at the time the fixed 35mm lens was too short for what I was comfortable shooting. With the 35mm you really need to be within 2 meters of your subject. The result was that I ended up shooting from the hip too much resulting in a symptomatic ‘fly-by’ look to a lot of my photographs.

僕がはじめて東京を撮ったのは、フィジフィルム X100Sというレンジファインダーのデジタルカメラ。2013年にヨドバシカメラで買ったんだ。

I kept the X100S but I started shooting film after spending time with the university photography club who almost exclusively shot with exotic cameras in various calibers. If you did not know already, film is huge in Japan. In Tokyo it is easy to come across not just 35mm negative film, but 120mm film, slide film, fast-ISO stock, and all manner of specialist gear. Developing film is not too expensive either, and second-hand cameras are plentiful and often in excellent condition.



DYGL in Shibuya


I bought my first film camera – a second-hand Canon AE-1 at Osawa camera in Ebisu and started shooting. Right away the 50mm lens gave me a bit more room to open up and learn the ropes in the 3-5m range. It was over 10 years since I had shot with film. Indeed waiting for the prints to be developed at Popeye camera in Jiyugaoka was a quaint experience.


Rainy day

Rainy day in Shibuya


As it happens I slowly got drawn into the world of film and black & white photography. I started leaving the X100S at home and shooting only film. I started studying the history and works of various Japanese photographers and others before me who had photographed the city. I made sure not to become too wallowed in the theory by getting out and shooting as often as possible.


Along the way my interest has always been focused on the living project of the city. I am interested in Guy Debord’s work on Dérive, the idea of seeking a new understanding of the city through wandering and urban exploration. I would walk up to fifteen kilometers in a day, wandering through the streets of Tokyo in search of new angles and new views.

Guy Debord氏によるDériveという作品が特に惹かれるね。これは、放浪や探索を通じて街の理解を深めるという考えのもと行われている。

Shadows in the night

Shadows in the night


One of the things I think about when shooting the city is to avoid the trap of museumification of places, that is, I ask myself “am I shooting to capture a human moment here, or am I shooting for the sake of shooting?” From time to time I shoot interesting buildings or scenery with my iPhone, however I feel that shooting for the sake of documenting, drawing a cross in the sand and saying “I was here” is not true to the kind of photographs I want to create.

時々、気に入った建物や景色をiPhoneで撮影するんだけど、砂に十字を書いて「I was here」と言っているような、ただの記録は撮りたくないんだ。

Shot with iPhone.

Okachimachi shot with an iPhone



Currently I shoot with a Pentax Super A 35mm. I find the Pentax is more solid than the Canon AE-1 and the grip is just right for strapless and one-handed shooting. My current choice of film stock is Fujifilm Neopan ACROS 100ISO black & white. I also use a Canon flash on the hot shoe for nighttime shooting.

今はペンタックスのSuper A 35mmで撮影しているよ。
ペンタックスはCanonのAE-1よりもソリッドだし、ストラップレスで片手での撮影に向いてるんだ。フィルムは、Fujifilm Neopan ACROS 100ISOの白黒。夜の撮影では、アクセサリーシューにCanonのフラッシュをつけているよ。

Fujifilm ACROS 100 black & white film stock

Fujifilm ACROS 100 black & white film stock

Fujifilm ACROS 100 白黒フィルムストック

People ask me why I shoot. The answer is simply curiosity, a curiosity with the city, this impossible conglomeration of individuals.

Photographs and words by
Cody Rapley