Chad Tobin: Tokyo-Dual Tone

Crowded streets, sensory overload, and a concrete metropolis describe the rhythm of the Tokyo experience. Canadian Photographer Chad Tobin spent three weeks walking the streets Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Nihonbashi, awash in neon glow and armed with his Leica M. 


With a strong fascination and curiosity driven by years of movies and imagery from Japan, Tobin decided to take the trip with one of his closest friends, who is also a photographer. “We kind of got into a routine and flow of shooting on our own and meeting up later in the evening for dinner.” Tobin explained that being able to discuss and process what they saw each day helped them combat the isolation that many people often experience on their first trip to Tokyo. 


Alternating between different areas of the city, Tobin would spend his days chasing light and moments, walking with no agenda and purpose. “I wanted to be open to the city and let the project emerge on its own.” Tobin navigated the narrow alleyways, open parks, and dark nightlife in search of different small sub-cultures to which he could attach himself, in hopes of telling a narrative of a different side of Japan.


Golden Gai a district of Shinjuka, provided a perfect backdrop of dark characters, poets, and artists for the photographer. 


Using the Leica M240 with a 35mm f2 Summicron ASPH allowed Tobin not to have to think about gear selection. “I like to keep things simple and not let anything get in the way.” Walking around for an 8-12 hour period demanded a light setup, and using the rangefinder system worked well.  Zone focusing allowed the photographer to work fast and be less intimidating in situations where people were aware of the camera. 


As a result of the trip, Tobin produced two small photo zines, with one focused on color images and one in monochrome. “I wanted to see Tokyo in both mediums and tell two different narratives.” In the color work, themes of consumer consumption, work, fashion subculture, and the mirrored-self permeate the 36-page zine. The second zine, titled “Mono no aware,” refers to a Japanese saying that describes the passing of transient moments. A darker nightlife theme is present along with the sobering power of daylight, which reminds the viewer of the engine of Japan and its relentless pace.  

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