• Photo Diary: Autumn in Tokyo

    Portland photographer Parker Woods captured the eclectic city of Tokyo on film and talked to us about his latest projects and showing his work at the Tokyo Art Book Fair. 
    Photos by Parker Woods 

    Hey Parker, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? 
    I shot my first roll of film when I was 18 and about to begin my senior year of high school in Colorado Springs. My parents had moved to San Diego to escape the cold winters and I was living by myself in a one-bedroom apartment across the street from my school. I originally wanted to shoot show photos, documenting the small hardcore scene in Denver, but I realized that I liked taking photos of friends in their day-to-day much more. I moved to San Diego after high school and starting making the commute up to LA about every other week to shoot with models and friends before eventually moving there. Those trips served as my introduction into fashion photography which is currently my primary focus. Now I’m 24 and living and working as a freelance photographer in Portland, OR. 

    When did you get your first camera? 
    I used a Minolta X-700—originally a gift from my father to my mother back in the early 80’s—for the first year I was experimenting with film. I think the first camera I spent my own money on was this little entry level Nikon D3100 back in 2010. 

    How has your process evolved since then? 
    I think trying to find beauty in the mundane has been a consistent theme throughout my work but now with a much better understanding of the technical aspects of photography. I also do a lot more planning now and try to minimize error since there are typically clients and budgets and other people’s time in the mix. 

    We love your latest project Momo Tokyo. Can you tell us how it came together? 
    Momo Tokyo was an idea that came to life after a friend gave me this big pink piece of fabric a few weeks before I was supposed to leave for Tokyo. I thought it might be fun to shoot the fabric around the city and with some models but when I ran the idea by my friends at Ransom Ltd. they thought it could be a more substantial project. So as soon as I landed in Japan I spent my entire time there, often with the help of my producer/assistant, shooting from 4am (Japan truly is the land of the rising sun) until it got too dark or was raining too hard. 

    How did you get linked up with the folks at Ransom Ltd.?
    The company is owned and operated by my friends Parker and Jay Fitzgerald. Parker and I were introduced over a year ago when I was still throwing around the idea of moving to Portland. He was very supportive of me and my work and we instantly had a connection sharing the same name and having a similar background. Having Parker F. and Jay handling this project was great because I felt that I had more control over the final product than I would have had I worked with another publisher.  

    Can you tell us about your experience at the Tokyo Art book Fair? 
    The Tokyo Art Book Fair was such a surreal experience. There were countless amazing artists, photographers, and publishers from all over the world so it was an absolute privilege to be able to exhibit alongside them. I was relieved that there were so many positive responses to my book because although releasing Momo Tokyo in Tokyo brought the whole project full circle, I was apprehensive about the project coming off as too ordinary to people living in the city. Overall it was definitely a long four days—especially when you’re watching people react to something that you poured yourself into—but me and the Ransom Ltd. team are hoping to return for next year’s! 

    What’s your favorite thing about Tokyo? 
    I love how photography is heavily integrated into Japanese culture. There are so many outlets for photographers in Japan and from what I’ve seen it appears to revolve around the love of the craft more so than the economics of the industry (a sharp contrast from “camera culture” in the U.S.). Also I feel it’s worth noting that with a population of almost 14 million people, I don’t know if I’ve ever had an unpleasant interaction with someone in Japan. There are a strict set of social norms that people follow which focus on respecting those around them and being cordial. As soon as I find a pizza spot in the city that can make a true New York style slice then I’m as good as gone. 

    Do you have any favorite places to take photos in the city? 
    I think the most impressive place I saw in Tokyo was the Naka Meguro Sky Garden. It’s an enclosed soccer field with concrete walls that extend upwards over 100 feet from the ground. You can take an elevator up to the top where there’s a garden that makes a crescent moon around the exterior of the walls. For one of the images in Momo Tokyo I hopped the 9-foot fence on top of the structure that separates people from getting too close to the edge of the wall so I definitely have some reckless nostalgia associated with that place.  

    Where to next? 
    I think I have Israel in my sights next. I’d love to make a project that’s not only an art piece but also a photographic essay that examines the country and people from a sociological point of view. Also I’m Jewish and I think it’d be a really eye-opening experience to visit the closest thing to a cultural homeland that I’m ever going to have. 

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