Deeper Shades #02 Tokyo


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After Deeper Shades #01 New York, Austrian photographer Andreas H. Bitesnich has published the second book in his on-going series of city studies: Deeper Shades #02 Tokyo. In 120 black and white photographs, Bitesnich throws us directly into the street life of this confusing, fascinating Moloch and paints a strikingly raw picture of what the introductory text defines as, poetically put, 'the face of a city and the shadows of a rising sun'.

"This whole town is a photo waiting to be taken", says Bitesnich, who arrived in Tokyo without any pre-conceived ideas about the kind of pictures he intended to take. Getting fully soaked into the spirit of the place, he decided to capture it all. From aerial views of the city to beautiful detail shots, from street scenes to anonymous portraits, the images bear witness to great curiosity and a sense of disorientation alike. “From the temple priest to the bubble-clad businessman and Yoyogi rockabillies: even the familiar is strange here".

Thoughtful editing creates small stories in the overall diverse and intense stream of images. We see a child crying in public next to the image of a street sign saying 'Get all the attention', or a shot from above of a traffic warden next to one of a robot in the same position. By deliberately jumping between rear views of Kimonos and flickering digital billboards, Bitesnich depicts a broad diversity of aspects of city life, but also the clash of modern lifestyle and traditional Japanese culture. There's no judgment though: Bitesnich depicts Tokyo as a city brimming with liveliness and impressions, and captures scenes on the spur of the moment as he passes through.

Ranging from blurry to overexposed, the images are remarkable for their stark contrast and balanced composition. Punctuating the book are shots of Japanese signs or pictograms on streets and windows that are framed in a very conscious way, adding a sense of structure to a loose narrative. The decision to portray Tokyo, a city overloaded with visual stimuli, in black and white only contributes to the feel of entering a different world, where boundaries are hazy and orientation becomes difficult.

Bitesnich does not offer us much of a common thread to hold on to as he continues to confront, almost bombarding us with his personal impressions of the city. He does not seem interested in imbuing the loose succession of images with one determinate conceptual thought; maybe as an homage to a city that so clearly defies any categorisation. In essence, Deeper Shades #02 Tokyo is a highly personal document of the observations of an outsider with a keen eye and a distinctive view - and it is arrestingly so.

Both Deeper Shades #01 New York and Deeper Shades #02 Tokyo have been published in a limited edition of 960 numbered copies a piece and are available for sale from the artist's website.

Andreas H. Bitesnich was previously featured on the cover of GUP #004, the Nude Issue.