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14 July 2009

Jacob Aue Sobol, Tokyo

I arrived in Tokyo for the first time in Spring 2006. My friend Sara had found a job there and I decided to go with her to discover the city she grew up in—a totally new environment I knew close to nothing about and where nothing was particularly attractive.

At first I felt invisible. I walked along the streets without meeting a single person’s eye; in the train I took almost every morning from Nakano to Shinjuku hardly a word was spoken. The city and its inhabitants seemed impenetrable, but this dense, concentrated life was fascinating too. Desperately looking for a way to break out of this feeling of isolation and loneliness, I finally started taking my pocket camera to the streets and parks. Instead of photographing gigantic towers or endless crowds, I turned to narrow side streets and individual presences in the heart of this city which both attracted and repelled me. I wanted to meet the locals, be part of the metropolis, make Tokyo mine. The photographs in this series represent what I saw and the people I mixed with during the next eighteen months. I think the people I met helped me understand what being part of Tokyo is now. Some of them became friends; with others I only shared a few moments.

My work took shape through chance encounters, with no other guide than my own curiosity, my mood and my impressions of the city I was discovering. I worked as instinctively as possible. Taking photos is like improvising a game. It seems to me that the more a photo is spontaneous and unplanned, the more it feels alive, the more it makes the transition from demonstration to existence.

Jacob Aue Sobol

Exhibition venue : Magasin Électrique, Parc des Ateliers, Rencontres d’Arles 2009.