An interview with Ei Toshinari

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Ei and me have one thing in common: We both hate driving cars. And obviously share a love for Stanley Kubrick. I stumbled upon his tumblr some weeks ago and managed to find his website, where I discovered his amazing Tokyo Underwater pictures. Rain is magical and can even transform Tokyo into a quiet, lonely city. Luckily I had the chance to ask Ei a couple of questions:

How long did you live in Tokyo and what inspires you about the city?

I was born in Tokyo and lived there until I was two. Then I moved to Hong Kong and lived there for 6 years. After that I moved to northern California and lived there for 7 years until I moved to Canada for 3 years. Then I came back to California but this time to southern California. However I go back to Japan almost every summer and winter. Tokyo can be a very inspiring place but it might be too chaotic for my taste. There is definitely always something happening there but now that my family does not live in Tokyo, I feel more like a tourist being in Tokyo. It’s a city that can be physically & emotionally straining because it’s an overdose of everything. I enjoy my hometown of Kamakura much more.

Why did you choose rain as an inspiration for your pictures?

Well rain wasn’t really an inspiration but more of just a happenstance. I had just watched a documentary on Daido Moriyama and the idea of using a point and shoot really appealed to me. When I shot the series “Tokyo Underwater” I just took my Contax T3 that I had just bought in Tokyo. It was a cloudy day but I never expected it to turn into a downpour. I naturally took photographs of people scattering for shade in the rain.

Do you still visit Japan on a regular basis and is there anything specific that you like most about the country. Especially in comparison to the US?

Yes, I usually visit every winter and summer. I like the fact that I can take the train and walk anywhere in Japan. In the US, you really need a car to get to some places. Everything is too spread out and I like how Japan is compact and close knit. Taking the local trains and walking to the beach turns into something I do everyday. The repetition turns into a habit and I end up with many similar photographs but I like this process.

Are there any Japanese artists/designers who inspire you?

Daido Moriyama and Hiroshi Sugimoto are Japanese photographers that inspire me. I’d say more filmmakers inspire me than photographers. I recently watched Masaki Kobayashi’s film “Kaidan” and that has been a great inspiration. I like looking at clothes by Yohji Yamamoto but I can’t afford them.

I noticed on your tumblr that you like vintage film cameras. Which is your favorite and what do you like about this way to make pictures?

My favorite camera is my Leica M6 but all my cameras have different purposes. It’s hard to really say why I like the Leica the most. Maybe its extension of the eye that everyone talks about or the shutter sound or just the overpriced branding…I don’t know why but it is my favorite.

Ei Toshinari – Website
Ei Toshinari – Tumblr

Images by Ei Toshinari.

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