When I was a young boy, my parents would take my brother and I out every Friday for “family night.” We’d do all sorts of things for family night, but most often it consisted of a trip to Stadium Pizza followed up by a stint at the video game arcade to the tune of $5 each (20 quarters!). One evening, though, while we were going through our tokens, a gang fight broke out in front of the arcade. I don’t remember seeing much except a few puddles of blood and police lights — my parents snatched us up real quick and we were outta there. The next Friday, my dad came home with an NES. Soon thereafter, I learned that Super Mario and Legend of Zelda and Megaman all came from Japan and that was the beginning of what has become a deep life-long fondness.
The reason I tell all of this is to illustrate just how big an event it was for me to get an email from Ms. Sawako Akune asking if I’d be willing to shoot a story about bookstores for a special Christmas Eve edition of HUGE Magazine out of Tokyo. I must admit, I hadn’t heard of the magazine beforehand, but a quick interwebs search both intimidated and made me excited. The magazine is very well put together and has a pretty impressive distribution (unfortunately almost exclusively in Japan). In any event, a few emails back and forth and things were a go. HUGE was sending Sawako to Portland, and we were supposed to travel around the city to different bookstores and photograph and interview the owners. The little catch was that we were going to be doing most of this on Black Friday. Fun!
Early on Thanksgiving, I met up with Sawako and her friend Hitomi at the Ace Hotel (where else?) to go over the schedule. In order to try and stay ahead of the shopping rush — most specifically at Powell’s, we decided to get an early start. It was a particularly dark and rainy day, but thankfully most of our stops were within a few blocks of each other. I struggle when having to shoot with incandescent light, and I don’t have a proper filter kit to balance the film for tungsten, so things were a bit challenging. It was one of those days when I silently wished that I was shooting digitally so that I could just fix my white balance with a few clicks. Still, we made it work (and in the end I’m glad I stuck with film).
Day two was just about as nice a day as you could hope for in Portland in the Fall. The sun was out (sorta) and it was dry and the light was just about perfect. We wrapped with our last stop (Monograph Bookwerks) as the sun was going down and had dinner that night with friends and breakfast the next morning before Sawako had to leave for the airport. It was a fast-paced weekend to say the least.
Several days later, after I’d had a chance to go over all of the film, I decided I needed to head back out and do a little reshooting with a controllable human element. Note to self: bringing along a subject or two for something like this makes life so much easier. Luckily, my good friend Daniel Dixon was more than willing to oblige. We hopped around between my favorite three locations and ended at Powell’s. Thusly, we were able to grab the image HUGE chose for the cover and Dan is officially big in Japan. Bam.
HUGE is almost entirely written in Japanese (but with amazing English embellishments and headlines, as you can see), and the only place I know were to pick up a copy outside of Japan is Amazon. Even if you can’t read the language, the magazine is great to flip though. Please do pick up a copy — if only because you love me so much. And I know I say this about everything, but it truly was an honor to be asked to shoot for HUGE, let alone win the cover. I hope very much to be able to work with them again in the future. It’s a mini-dream come true to be published for something in Japan. My most sincere thanks go to Sawako-san, Hitomi, and Mr. Satoshi Taguchi!
As for notes: words by Sawako Akune. Coordination by Hitomi Thompson. My most special thanks to Daniel Dixon. All photos were shot with a Contax 645, Zeiss Ikon ZM, or Contax G2 using Kodak Portra 160 and 400. The end.