Shinjuku “is where Tokyo plays,” according to the DK Eyewitness Travel guide. I was in Tokyo in April 2019 for an intensive five-day documentary photography workshop with renowned Magnum photographers Jim Goldberg (Raised by Wolves) and Alessandra Sanguinetti (On the Sixth Day). I was challenged by Jim and Alessandra to focus on details and to be patient enough to work in one spot. (My street photography typically involves lots of movement, walking, scanning for the juxtaposition of forms, shadows, faces in crowds, and people within the context of place.)
So, I stayed within just a two square block area of Shinjuku’s Kabukicho area for several afternoons and evenings following morning classroom and review sessions. Often referred to as the “red light district,” it is full of nightclubs, hostess bars and allegedly “other” sexual services. Attempting to photograph inside the clubs and interview clients and employees in a true documentary effort was more risk and (considerable) cost than I wanted to take in just a few days. Photographing people - with or without consent - is not difficult for me. So, for this project I focused instead on objects associated with this district and not the individuals. I was attracted to the area at first because it is busy, bright, intense, full of people until late at night (including families, children, and tourists following their guides). This brief photographic story relies on “smaller,” suggestive pieces of the puzzle to convey what many visitors are searching to find inside - thrills, excitement, pleasure, but ultimately, perhaps, hope.