With Aaron James Draplin for HUGE Magazine

Somewhere back in the mists of time, when I was still just a lowly design intern, a colleague handed me a Field Notes booklet to write down my Photoshop short cuts. There was something about the texture and simplicity and the Futura that completely revolutionized what I considered “good design.” It was one of those flash point moments for me in my professional life. And call it a case of extreme laziness (because it says in detail in the back of every Field Notes booklet), but it wasn’t until a few years later that I learned Aaron Draplin lived in Portland. I met Aaron briefly at the first Portland Bazaar and was completely surprised at his unguarded and friendly disposition. He is one of the nicest, most earnest men I’ve ever met, and as far as I know, he wears his Carhartt jacket to bed.

I recently shot the images below for a spread in HUGE Magazine, Japan. Their current issue features people who collect interesting and eclectic items and ephemera. Mr. Draplin happens to have a rather extensive collection of interestingly designed Americana, including possibly the world’s largest collection of bullet pens. Naturally, a perfect fit for the article. While I was shooting, Aaron expounded a little on why he collects all this stuff — that it’s about saving little pieces of history from the junk heap. He takes these matchbooks and pens and name plates, etc, and incorporates elements from them into his designs, effectively resurrecting a part of history that would have otherwise been lost. Pretty awesome idea. And the best justification I’ve ever heard from any hoarder. ^_^ Incidentally, I think I’m the same with old cameras — I buy them to save them from everyone else haha.

I was truly honored to have been able to work with Aaron in an official capacity. I hope it’s not long before our paths cross again.

With HUGE Magazine (Japan) – Go! Bookstore!

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.