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kesselI don’t have to go out and look for photography — it finds me. Or that’s how I’ve felt these past couple of days. Yesterday, for example, I was on the subway when a middle-aged businessman sat next to me. He looked absolutely ordinary except in one way: he was studying this most appetizing catalog of photography books.

I couldn’t control my curiosity and had to ask him where I could one.

“You can’t,” he told me. “At least I don’t think you can in Japan.”

He then explained that he’d just gotten back from Germany and a book event. His suit told me that he was in the printing business, and not publishing.

“Do you work for Dai-ichi (No. 1) Printing?!” I asked, impolitely.

“Dai-ni (No. 2), actually.”

He looked hurt, but went on to explain that his firm printed Masafumi Sanai‘s 赤車 (Sekisha, ‘red car’), which was judged one of the top 10 books at the Kessel forum. (I noticed that the Sanai book was chosen by an art professor rather than a photographer, unlike some of the others. I will let you guess my opinion of the work from that).

By coincidence I had recently picked up and looked through Sekisha in a bookstore. It really is beautifully printed and I told him so. The businessman then surprised me by telling me exactly where I had seen it: at the Aoyama Book Center in Roppongi. He knew because it was the only place in Japan that was physically selling what has been declared one of Japan’s best recent photo books.

It reminded me again of how small the of world of contemporary art photography really is. We imagine that such works are seen by millions, when actually the number is in the thousands. It has to be, because these days books for even major names are printed in the low thousands or even high hundreds.

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That was yesterday. Today I saw what I think is an increasingly rare sight — the “street photographer,” like this fellow above, at work.

I am fairly sure he was a street-shooter, even though he was in violation of one of the cardinal rules of genre: Never put yourself in a situation you can’t easily escape.

Seriously, though, I find it admirable that someone of student age is actually out taking photos of strangers — that is to say of an outer world that might snap back —
when many contently photograph the dishes in their sinks or the tiles in their bathrooms (or for that matter their red sports cars). That is to say objects, from which we are to meant to read (or not read, which is a statement as well) an inner world.

I also liked his hat. I’d love to wear something as characteristic, but find that the brim sometimes gets in the way of a good shot.