Tango Peninsula, Japan Posted on: May 27, 2021 My current state of mind as we put the final touches on my new website. The light is starting to peek thru...
TO RUSSIA WITH LOVE
Lombok, Indonesia Posted on: May 21, 2021 Celebrating six years of action, adventure and intrigue with my partner in crime and my favorite Bond girl, Natasha. С годовщиной!
Ubatuba, São Paulo, Brazil Posted on: May 19, 2021 Summer beckons. Brazil, 2003.
Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Posted on: May 17, 2021 Having lived in Brazil for six years, I developed an affinity for all things Brazilian. Brazil is a country of contrasts, a dangerous beauty full of joy and heartbreak, hope and despair. It’s home to approximately one third of the world's remaining tropical rainforest, which is where I developed my respect for the environment and my fascination with indigenous cultures. Aside from its unique nature, there are countless other things I love about Brazil: the food, the drinks, the music, the parties, the dances, the beaches, the vibrant mix of European, South American and African cultures and skin colors, and so much more. But what makes Brazil really beautiful to me is its people. Whether it’s futbol or samba or a rave, Brazilians do it with an abundance of passion. And a healthy dose of creativity. I wasn’t born in Brazil but I should have been.
Nara, Japan Posted on: May 10, 2021 Fallen petals Glittering memories Fading to night 花吹雪 絢爛の時 夜に消え
Nara, Japan Posted on: May 7, 2021 In this image, a temple peeks out from a forest of cherry trees atop Mount Yoshino in Nara. While the explosion of pink is a breathtaking sight to behold, cherry blossoms in Japan guard a deeper spiritual meaning in their petals. Every spring, when people across the country gather ceremoniously for hanami (cherry blossom viewing), they’re not just admiring the aesthetic beauty of a flower. Over elaborate feasts, music and sake-filled glasses, they’re actually celebrating life. Rooted in the Buddhist concepts of mortality, mindfulness and living in the moment, cherry blossoms are a metaphor for the ephemeral nature of human existence. In Japanese culture, sakura are an enduring symbol of life, death and renewal, and are frequently expressed in paintings, film and poetry. Blooming season is powerful, spectacular and euphoric, yet so brief—a visceral reminder that our lives, too, are fleeting. So in a sense, cherry blossoms teach the Japanese to pay attention because ultimately, they are sakura. We all are.
FIFTY SHADES OF PINK
Nara, Japan Posted on: May 5, 2021 Ahh, springtime in Japan... there’s nothing like it. I shot this image a couple of weeks ago on Mount Yoshino, a hidden gem that’s probably Japan’s best kept secret for viewing cherry blossoms. The mountain is blanketed in over 30,000 cherry trees of around 200 varieties, most which were donated by followers of Shugendo, a syncretic religion that fuses Japanese mountain asceticism with Buddhism. Mount Yohino’s elevation causes the blossoms to bloom in gradation, resulting in a surreal tapestry of pink.
DINNER WITH A GEISHA
Kyoto, Japan Posted on: April 30, 2021 The geisha is a quintessential symbol of Japan, recognized throughout the world, yet little understood. Geisha are accomplished performers who specialize in the Japanese cultural arts and are masters of conversation and hospitality. The geisha tradition dates back over 250 years, yet there is still a persistent misconception in western culture that geisha are a type of escort or prostitute. On the contrary, they are highly esteemed in Japanese society, and their services have long been revered and coveted by the elite. In fact, dinner with a geisha is perhaps the most prestigious form of cultural entertainment in Japan.
MEMORIES OF A GEISHA
Kyoto, Japan Posted on: April 28, 2021 Kyoto is the heart of Japan’s exotic geisha world. Here, a fully-fledged geisha is properly called ‘geiko’ and her apprentice - a ‘maiko’. During the cherry blossom season, if you’re lucky, you can spot one along the stone paved streets of Gion on her way to a high-end dinner, a private party or a special event. Gion’s streets and alleys are lined with traditional wooden machiya houses, many of which now function as restaurants, serving Kyoto style kaiseki ryori (Japanese haute cuisine). Interspersed among these are a number of ochaya (teahouses), the most exclusive and expensive of Kyoto's dining establishments where geiko and maiko typically entertain their guests. There’s something magical and nostalgic about encountering a geiko or maiko in this historic part of Kyoto, especially without a single tourist around.
Kyoto, Japan Posted on: April 26, 2021 Sign of the times. I shot these two images at the same spot on different nights in Pontocho Alley, which is famous for its bars, restaurants and tea houses. Normally, it’s bustling with locals and tourists—and the occasional geisha. But now that Kyoto has declared another state of emergency, in the absence of humans, felines rule the night. Sometimes, they strike a pose.
È LA VITA, 2003
São Paulo, Brazil Posted on: April 22, 2021 One autumn afternoon long ago, I was sitting at a busy sidewalk cafe near the Duomo in Milan, killing time before a casting. The locals trickled in and out like clockwork. From the moment they ordered an espresso, it went down the hatch in thirty seconds tops—slurp, good, sip, molto buono, grazie, ciao. Amid the hustle and bustle, I noticed a man at the bar who looked out of place. He was perhaps in his late fifties, immaculately dressed in a tailored three-piece suit and a fedora. He had the refined mannerisms of a gentleman of a bygone era. The way he tucked in his silk ascot or adjusted his pocket square and cuff links, every move was the epitome of cool. Even when he lay down the coins to pay for his espresso, he did it with panache. As he made for the exit, my attention shifted to a different scene unfolding next to me. A beautiful young girl in a minidress was passing by on a bike, carrying a bag of groceries. A chorus of catcalls followed. She turned to blow her admirers a kiss... just as our man stepped onto the sidewalk. In that split second, two worlds literally collided. By fate, they landed in front of me, he without his fedora, and she minus her groceries. And thus, this image was born. But it’s only half the story. Since we’re taking about Italians, the drama that ensued was nothing short of cinematic. A debate was heating up as to who provoked the accident. Thankfully, other than a bruised ego, neither party was hurt; but it didn’t stop the patrons from taking sides and making a sport of it. Naturally, the young Casanovas flocked to the leggy damsel in distress, making much ado about the tiny scrape on her knee. Amid the yelling and cussing, a waiter stepped in to give our man a hand. He stood up cool and collected like James Bond and dusted off his fedora. Our fallen angel glanced up at him, her eyes apologetic. He smiled, shrugged his shoulders—è la vita—then pointed to the mess behind her: eggs and tomatoes splattered on the pavement, topped by spaghetti. Next to it, a broken bottle of wine and a soggy baguette. On this fine autumn day, dinner was destined for the birds.
BAREFOOT WALTZ, 1992
Paris, France Posted on: March 31, 2021 This editorial image for Marie Claire France reminds me why I became a photographer. It captures a splinter of time, a distant memory, which is frozen on celluloid like magic. It’s a singular beautiful moment that can never be replicated. ⠀ The man in the picture was Didier Mourière, my neighbor at the time in the Quartier Latin in Paris. He had always been curious about my photography so I invited him to this shoot at the Arènes de Lutèce. He immediately took a liking to model Gabrielle, a dark-haired Hungarian beauty who reminded him of his beloved late wife. ⠀ ⠀ Near the end of the shoot, during a break, Didier seized the moment and led Gabrielle to dance a barefoot waltz in the grass. They glided under an old oak tree in slow motion like in a dream. I noticed Didier’s eyes welling with tears, and hoping not to ruin the moment, I quickly grabbed my camera and snapped a shot. That single frame captured a rare and beautiful moment in all its purity—a moment that shall remain etched in my mind forever. ⠀ ⠀ From Didier, I learnt that inspiration is everywhere, under each blink of our eyes, between every beat of our heart. Whether we’re inspired or not depends entirely on us.
Paris, France Posted on: March 29, 2021 “This Is Not a Novel To Be Tossed Aside Lightly. It Should Be Thrown with Great Force.” - Dorothy Parker, poet, drunk, critic, manic depressive, screenwriter, and one of the most underrated writers in American history. In this editorial for Marie Claire France, the model didn’t hate the novel as much as she hated the photographer... moi... for making her throw it over and over and over. In the days of analog photography, we used Polaroids to check composition, lighting and exposure. But that was only part of the equation. ⠀ ⠀ Capturing action required skill, a sharp sense of timing and luck. More often than not, it was a crapshoot because there was no real way of knowing the outcome until the negatives returned from the lab. So, to improve our odds of success, multiple takes were necessary—and frequent. As a result, that livid expression on the model’s face is actually quite genuine.
TRUST IN ME, 2004
Milan, Italy Posted on: March 4, 2021 What did the serpent say to the girl?
NIGHT CRAWLER, 2002
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Posted on: February 26, 2021 A lot of my early fashion editorial work was shot outdoors in the thick of night. I became fascinated with night photography in high school after I saw the book, “Paris de Nuit” by Brassaï. First published in 1932, Paris de Nuit was a landmark collection of dreamlike, expressionistic black and white photographs of the Parisian nightscape. In an era of slow lenses and even slower film, photographers rarely ventured out at night, yet Brassaï somehow brought to life stunning images in the darkness. Fifty years later, in the early 80s, even though technological advances had made night photography easier, it was still a hard skill to master. Everything was manual in the analog days, and technical challenges were aplenty. So like Brassaï, I hit the streets during the wee hours with my Leica, and learned by trial and error. In the city that never sleeps, there was no shortage of inspiration. From street lamps shimmering on rain-soaked cobblestones to smoke billowing from a manhole to warm light spilling out of a cafe to shadows sliding mysteriously in an alleyway, things that appeared mundane by day transformed into a visual spectacle at night. I snuck out of home as often as I could but alas, there was a price to pay for my night crawling. More often than not, I showed up to school unkempt, exhausted, eyes bloodshot—and reeking of chemicals. Yet despite the weird looks I invited or the detentions I got served, I kept experimenting with exposure, lighting, film and darkroom techniques until finally, I figured out the formula.
Ubud, Bali, Indonesia Posted on: February 23, 2021 The word “chiaroscuro” is Italian for light and shadow. It’s a classic technique used by painters, photographers and cinematographers to contrast between areas of light and dark to heighten the impact of an image. In the image above, the sensuality of the model’s body is accentuated by the interplay of shadow and light.
PLANET ROCK, 2020
Wakayama, Japan Posted on: February 18, 2020 A big chunk of our planet is made of rock. While some rock formations have changed little over time, others have been transformed by nature’s artistry. One of nature’s most unusual creations in Japan is located on the southernmost tip of the Kii Peninsula. Hashigui-iwa (橋杭岩) is a surreal composition of towering sculptural rocks arrayed in a straight line for 850 meters, rising out of the sea like shark fins. This natural wonder was created some 14 million years ago by a massive volcanic eruption that shot flaming hot magma into the sea. The magma solidified underwater, but then tectonic activity caused an upheaval of the ocean floor, expelling giant rocks hundreds of feet in the air. Over time, the heat, wind, sea and rain eroded the softer rocks, leaving behind the harder igneous ones depicted in the images above. In this sense, these spectacular rock formations are works in progress, as nature continues to hone them.
TWO STRANGE ROCKS, 2021
Kyotango, Japan Posted on: February 16, 2021 Located at the far northern coast of Kyoto Prefecture is Tango-hanto, a rugged, unspoiled peninsula, extending about 20 Km into the Sea of Japan. Tango is home to many unique rock formations composed of hardened magma that emerged from a geological stratum over 15 million years ago. I recently traveled there in search of these Paleolithic beauties. The images above were captured just prior to a violent hailstorm. In the first photo, the massive volcanic rock jutting out of the sea was facing a series of 6th century tombs dug into the hillside. The ominous sky, the anxious seagulls, the howling wind all heightened the sense of drama. I was about to pack up my gear when a splinter of sunlight suddenly pierced the obsidian clouds, cueing me to fire the shutter and run like Hell! The second image depicts Tateiwa Rock, one of Japan’s largest monoliths, standing at 20 meters tall. This rare geological formation houses the legend of Prince Maroko who’s said to have trapped an Oni (a Japanese mythical ogre) within it. The locals believe one can hear it crying out when the waves are high. The only cry I heard was my own as pellets of hail showered down on my open camera case.
Wakayama, Japan Posted on: February 12, 2021 I grew up in a house of books. My parents taught me to read at a very early age and fed me books that nourished my imagination. I usually fell asleep next to The Little Prince, Alice in Wonderland or The Call of the Wild. When I got older, I devoured literature of every genre, especially action and adventure. I was gripped by the power of storytelling. Today, though I don’t read as voraciously, I still keep a handful of books at arm’s length. They are my references, my bibles, the sacred writings that shaped the very foundation of who I am today. One of them is “Lost Horizon”, a novel written in 1933 by English author James Hilton, which was later turned into a film by Frank Capra. I read the novel before I saw the movie, and it instantly became etched in my psyche. Lost Horizon was a fun read at first, a captivating adventure tale of a group of plane-crash survivors who end up in Shangri-La, a utopian lamasery hidden deep within the mountains of the Himalayas. It’s also a novel of big ideas, and subsequent readings provoked deeper, more meaningful musings on spirituality, philosophy and life’s purpose. In hindsight, Lost Horizon may have inspired me to travel the world in search of my own vision of Shangri-La. Of the countless images I shot over thirty years, the photo above (captured last year along the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route in Wakayama, Japan) most reminds me of my original vision of it. Yet its essence remains elusive because, after all, Shangri-La isn’t a place. It’s a state of mind.
HOME ALONE, 2021
Koyasan, Japan Posted on: February 8, 2021 To usher in 2021, I decided to make a special journey to Koyasan, a small, secluded religious town in the Wakayama Prefecture of Japan. Its temple lodgings and ancient forests invite contemplation while its holy mountains embody the very essence of the Japanese spirit. After a tumultuous year, I needed a respite from the city and some quiet time for self-reflection. What I got was so much more... As one of Japan’s most sacred sites, Koyasan is a popular destination for pilgrims. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s also normally crawling with tourists. However, due to the pandemic and a massive snowstorm that shut down the town, I got a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience it with zero distractions. The silence and solitude transported me to a whole different realm. On New Year’s Day, I ventured out at the crack of dawn. The blizzard that blew in overnight was still raging, and rather than discourage me, it gave me a rush of adrenaline. I shot the above image of myself with my Hasselblad on a timer at Okunoin Cemetery as I set the first footprints on the path leading to the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, the father of Shingon Buddhism. Pilgrims travel this path, believing that Daishi walks at their side. Some say that though Kobo Daishi departed this world, he didn’t actually die, and that his spirit remains preserved under these ancient trees, awaiting the coming of the next Buddha. On this particular day, it was the coming of a soggy snowman. I arrived at the mausoleum blanketed in white, my boots and clothes soaking wet. Yet all I could think of was how lucky I was to be here alone, detached from reality and from my self. Magical, mystical, ethereal... Koyasan cannot be described in words. It must be experienced and FELT.
Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan Posted on: February 5, 2021 To say Japan is filled with mysteries would be an understatement. Every corner of this country is home to a new surprise, which is what makes it such a mystical and magical place. The image above happened one misty morning when I stumbled upon the ruins of an ancient castle nestled in the hills.
Amanohashidate, Kyoto Posted on: February 2, 2021 I used to think I needed courage to move forward, but this past year has taught me that what I really need is courage to stand still.
OH, MANOLO, 2003
Maresias, Sao Paulo, Brazil Posted on: February 1, 2021
SPANK YOU VERY MUCH, 2002
Angra dos Reis, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Posted on: January 28, 2021
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Posted on: January 26, 2021 Don’t try this at home, kids. Instagram ain’t worth it.