Tokyo Tokyo by Colin Steel

Tokyo, Tokyo, home of Moriyama and Nakahiri, deep blacks and stark whites, grainy, blurred, shocking contrasts over a quirky but sensual rhythm .

By Colin Steel – His web site is HERE

Tokyo has long-held a strange magnetism for me but it has been a long and uncomfortable path to even get to the beginning of understanding this magnificently complex city and its wonderful people. I have been travelling there for over six years and trying to make sense of it photographically for the last two years. It bewilders me, hurts me, loves me but above all enthrals me like no other city I know of. Its incredible complexity and compression of space creates a system of polite mannerism that is at wild contrast with the creativity of many of its artists who, for me, have pushed the boundaries of photography with their beat poem rhythms and blatant disregard of conventional structures. I feel honoured to tread the same streets of Shinjuku and Shibuya as Daido and stop into the tiny bars drinking and searching for the internal buzz that will free me from my rational straightjacket. I like to think that every city I visit has a rhythm and Tokyo is my Bill Evans. It has a perfect, hushed, mellow, modal meandering that is all to infrequently punctuated by strange ventures into the upper registers for that short, sharp thrill and excited recognition of something that we all have and glimpse only so very, very rarely. This is what photography is to me now, the never-ending search for encounters with that fleeting spirituality that combines shapes, light, dark, expressions, movements, glances and beauty into sudden realisation of the perfection that exists in our imperfect world, play on Bill Evans…………………

Colin 01

Colin 02

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Colin 09

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Colin 11

Colin 12

Colin 13

Colin 14


  1. colin — i just finished looking at your latest SH posting and not sure how i feel about the photos…. but i simply ADORE the tokyo shots. you have given us poetry.

    • Hey, thanks, I am really happy to hear you say that. I understand your reaction completely and also agree with you. The Tokyo shots you are seeing here came together over a longer period of time and are a more mature piece of work whereas the Rome ‘City Diary’ was just a weekend of fun and more like a shooting exercise. Thanks again though, Colin

  2. Very very good. Thanks for the inspiration! Viewer may also like Liko Shiga. Check her out.

  3. Who cares about camera, lens and resolution? It is the picture that counts, and this set just blew me away! These are timeless masterpieces and an true inspiration for the rest of us!

  4. Impressive pictures. Even impressive is the text. It shows that taking picture is not pressing a button with the perfect technics but the results of thinking about people and their environment. Thanks a lot for such a pleasure to read and to look at.

  5. Hi Colin,

    Thanks so much for sharing your work, impressive as always!! Every time you post your photos here I learn. I have been in Tokyo 3 times and it always impresses me, I agree 100% that there is something unique in that city. Regarding the GR I bought mine after reading your post in Brazil and the review from Steve and I could not be happier, it is an amazing camera. Thanks for your work and I hope you will come back soon here with more trips.


  6. Great moody photos .. listening to Bill Evan’s japanese sounding “Epilogue” and “Some Other Time” right now and it just makes me feel your photographs so much more 🙂

    Particularly like that haunting look of the woman on the train. Kudos!

  7. The fifth photo with the mirroring face is a really classic (and the others are beautiful too).

  8. Nice work Colin, I love frames #2 (building) and # (woman on train/metro) . I’m not a fan of grain… something I’ve tried to get away from since my old film days … but art is a diverse thing isn’t it … cheers!

  9. There are some very good files in this series. I might weed out half to make the others stronger but that’s just me. At least there are some killers in there. I am reminded of Ralph Gibson and a few other contemporaries that enjoyed playing with the narrative hidden between light and shadow. Each image is missing something obvious, whether context or elements of the frame, and that is its appeal. The metro photo with the woman’s face pushed to the glass feels very Hitchcock – very film noir. The masked man and worried looking woman equally mysterious. The images evoke questions and that is what makes us look. The glowing white hand on the shoulder is strange and free floating. We are to wonder who is this intruder? Who is the third wheel at the reunion? I will not ask you what camera gear you used because I don’t give a damn. And neither should you. Well done.

  10. I vote Colin best regular poster for his harmony of gear insights (ok not this time) / amazing pictures ( it’s no surprise he loves photography art books) and travel/now jazz references. I’m off to check out bill Evans. Have fun comparing some of the same pics in his GR post in the archive and seeing the pp here compared to the (ooc?) GR’s high contrast effect. Colin’s subliminal Lesson today – Don’t forget that raw file or at least bracket the effects if you can.

  11. Been following your work for a while now Colin, and it doesnt matter with what or how you do it, because its your vision and thoughts what gets us all. keep up the great work.

  12. Thank you for your art! And thank you for the reference to Bill Evans, he’s one of my favorite musicians too. The photos match the mood of the album “Kind of Blue” perfectly.

  13. The part of this blog site are the wonderful guest bloggers that Steve shares with us. Beautiful interpetation of the moods of a city Colin. Thanks so much for sharing your vision. And thanks to Steve for posting it.

  14. There is pixel peeping at really boring photos.
    And there is art.

    This is art.

    Best regards

  15. Light and shadows, shapes and forms. Great photography. I’m not even remotely interested in the gear. I’d love to see these on a museum wall, where they belong by right.

  16. Some of the best work featured on this site. An homage to Daido while still keeping your own essence. Excellence. I rarely comment but you have compelled me sir and I will bookmarking your site.

  17. some great photos. while I just complained about some pics in another thread, there is so much to like about these pictures here – although they are not “technically perfect (grainy, etc.), it just works because of the great motives and composition.
    If I had to pick a favorite, it would be number five for me.

  18. Colin, with such shots, you`ll not have many friends. Or you`ll have too many. What you show, can`t be copied just using same camera, in the same place. For me – excellent. World is small, maybe one day we will meet – then drinks are on me 🙂 Congratulations!

    • Hey, yeah, shot with GR except the balloons which was GF1 I think. Really glad you liked the set. Its taken a while to get that far.



  19. Thanks for sharing and judging from the comments before me, I’m in the minority, but aside from 1 or 2, I just don’t get it. There must be something wrong with me, but I got the dark mood but that’s about it. Oh well, maybe if I keep looking it will click for me one day. Probably, why I’m not a professional photographer too.

    • ChrisM, I would recommend you go to the library and check out books of Daido Moriyama and other street photographer’s work. This style of photography is different from what you normally see on Steve Huff’s site and it’s not really dependent on gear, but more about capturing a mood. Daido himself is not liked by everyone, but you can at least learn to appreciate what him and Colin are doing.

      • Thanks for the tip. I’ll probably pass though. I didn’t like most of them but read the comments and thought, I must be missing something. So, I have looked at the images at least 20 or 30 times each and I haven’t changed my opinion. I don’t get what make them special, except the are unique from normal photography. So this style doesn’t work for me, that’s fine (and honestly most fine art is wasted on me).

        • Fair enough, I gave you advice on how you can educate yourself and learn to appreciate the art of what Colin is doing and it’s your prerogative to take the advice or not. You won’t “get it” by just looking at the photos 20 or 30 times, you actually have to educate yourself on the proper way to “look” at these photos. That’s true for any art if you want to get past the “art as entertainment” level. It’s like sports, people can watch sports for entertainment, but you can’t really “get” sports until you learn the game (the rules, the meaning of the score, proper techniques, etc.). But if you just want to watch sports for entertainment and don’t want to learn more, that’s fine. I suppose that’s probably what you mean by “normal” photography, anybody can just capture a moment with a camera nowadays. But for those of us who strive for more in our photography, Colin’s photos are truly an inspiration.

          I’ll get off my soapbox now. 😉

        • ChrisM: Fellow dissenter here. As soon as I read the bad teenage prose at the start of the article, my antenna went off, and it was right. “Verbal diarrhea: for when you know your photos can’t speak for themselves”. For “blatant disregard of conventional structures”, read “I can’t be bothered to compose or focus, but if I talk about Bill Evans, people will overlook this”.

          I’m not going to say that “I don’t get it”. I’m going to say that “there is nothing worth getting”. With one exception, the mirrored face in the train window, there is not a single picture here that I would proudly display had I taken it. I think I would have deleted them all.

          Moriyama is the same. Visual discord, presented as art. I can see how the photographer has been influenced by Moriyama. Unfortunately. This stuff would be fine on Eric Kim’s site, but not anywhere where photography is taken seriously.

          One thing I will agree on: Tokyo rocks. And it deserves much better than this.

          PS: to the original photographer: nothing personal. I just really, really don’t like this stuff and by putting it up here you invite comments from all angles.

          • John Lemanski, I have to agree with you. When I first started taking pictures as a young photojournalist and using film, my contact sheets were filled with images like this and would be constantly discarded as they were considered unacceptable and looked on it as part of a learning curve. There were maybe a few images here that I liked, the reflection in the train window being what I thought was the best of the group. To me this is just another dark sub-culture in the so-called world of Art.

    • Hi Janez, sure. Shot in RAW and converted in Silvereffex Pro 2 to the Tmax 400 film look. Sometimes a little vignetting added. Glad you liked them, Colin

    • Hi, Yes, except the ballon shot which is much older and GF1 I think. I am really glad you liked the shots s a whole though. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  20. I’m really impressed. I get the idea of Bill Evans, it really worka for me in this case, and the pics are magic. Kudos.

  21. Amazingly beautiful and sophisticated. There is a seriousness and a lightness that reflects the depth of Japan. Thank u Colin

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