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NIHON NOIR: TOKYO’S OTHERWORLDLY NIGHTSCAPES

In Tokyo, find skyscrapers and neon lights in a dense, urban landscape that is unlike anywhere else.
Commonplace in Japan, but once viewed from an outsider point of view, they often seem like scenes from another dimension. Looking from high above on a rooftop, the dense cityscape may make you feel like you are in a completely different world. Fascinated by the sci-fi futurism of Tokyo, photographer Tom Blachford shoots next level images of the city where the past and future come and go.

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Edo Bulldog, Photograph Tom Blachford | Edo-Tokyo Museum, Architect: Kiyonori Kikutake, Year: 1993

The diverse landscapes of Tokyo have long inspired some of the world’s greatest creators. Whether day or night, the city provides a completely mesmerising atmos-phere ready to be deciphered by those who look closely. From Tokyo’s tall sky-scrapers to chaotic intertwined laneway bars that reflect a kind of beauty in their juxtaposition, filled with fascinating characters and storytellers that make it a city unlike anywhere else.
Both local and international creatives continue to be fascinated by the city. The movie Blade Runner was inspired by Kabukichō in Shinjuku when director Sir Ridley Scott visited Japan. Enter the Void by Gaspar Noé released in 2009 was based in Kabukichō, the city full of neon lights which was depicted in an external or out-of-body perspective amongst the psychedelic cityscapes of Tokyo. Through images, photographers shoot unimaginable scenes of the city, capturing a unique point of view.

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Edo Tokyo II, Photograph Tom Blachford | Edo-Tokyo Museum, Architect: Kiyonori Kikutake, Year 1993

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Bruce and Milla, Photograph Tom Blachford | A nod to the flying taxi from the fifth element

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Nakagin Convenience, Photograph Tom Blachford | Building: Nakagin Capsule Tower, Architect: Kishō Kurokawa, Year: 1970


Photographer Tom Blachford is particular about capturing moments of trans-parency, color and mystique that are beyond the limits of human perception. He studies the ability of cameras to connect the human world to the darker world that's out of our reach. He is particularly fascinated by architecture, seeing houses, cities and suburbs and the setting of an unwritten story, conveying each scene of a drama of his own that's happening on the other side of his lens for viewers. Blachford is one lensman who was certainly enchanted by the city. "I first visited Japan in 2013, and I have been lucky to return three times since. I honestly just had my jaw on the floor the whole time. I couldn’t believe the complexity of culture and architecture I found there. I felt as if I had been transported to another dimension where I wasn’t sure what year it was or what planet I was on. I have been trying to translate that feeling ever since.”
So impressed by the city, Blachford became a night-crawling photographer, start-ing a series called NIHON NOIR that featured Tokyo architect at night. The name NIHON NOIR derives from the term Neon Noir, which is a genre of movies and nihon, meaning “Japan” in Japanese, trying to express the perspective of being in an-other dimension. His key inspirations also include movies such as Blade Runner and Japanese anime Akira and Ghost In The Shell. “I began my series with a keen interest in modernist architecture, particularly the work of Kishō Kurokawa and Kenzo Tange. I found as much of their work as I could and followed the threads of the metabolism movement through to some of the more post modern buildings that emerged in the 1990s. Overall I was always looking for a wow factor and futuris-tic factor to the buildings. I feel Japanese architecture mirrors one of my fa-vourite traits of Japanese culture, the pursuit of perfection. Both of trying new things as well as trying to master traditions.”

 

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Capsule Dreams, Photograph Tom Blachford | Nakagin Capsule Tower, Architect: Kishō Kurokawa, Year: 1970

Shootings happen at night. It takes about two to three hours for him to capture a building in the angle that satisfies him, shooting with “a Nikon d850 digital camera with a set of Tilt-Shift lenses that allow me to control my perspective and keep my lines perfectly straight.” Blachford emphasized a cyberpunk palette heavy in purples, pinks and blues and removed any light colors that felt natural or welcoming — maintaining a stark feel of a cold, neon dystopian atmosphere for his images. "I always shed new light on architecture to depict it as if it exist-ed in the past, present and future at the same time. I've been shooting 30 to 70-year-old architecture for the past ten years to make them look as if they came from the future.”
“I like to make a point how architectural and utopian ideals can easily become dystopian nightmares", says Blachford. In NIHON NOIR, Blachford’s capture of Tokyo as a world in another dimension, questions viewers on the charm of city through his artistic techniques and angles.

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Aoyama Gundam, Photograph Tom Blachford | Aoyama Technical College, Architect: Makoto Sei Watanabe, Year: 1990

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The Battleship, Photograph Tom Blachford | Gunkan (Battleship Building) or New Sky Building No. 3, Architect: Yoji Watanabe, Year: 1972

 

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Deckard’s Den, Photograph Tom Blachford | Building: Unknown, Reminiscent of a scene from Blade Runner which used pipes and augmentations to design sets of the future

 

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Fish Market, Photograph Tom Blachford | This image was generated using many separate shots showing cars and traffic moving and then using a mathematical mean function to remove them as mathematical outliers in the scene

 

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Fuji Mechano, Photograph Tom Blachford | Building: Fuji TV Headquarters, Architect: Kenzo Tange, Year: 1996

Text: Kurumi Fukutsu

English translation: Sho Mitsui

Images: Tom Blachford