Brian Wood-Koiwa was actually born and raised in rural Pennsylvania in the US, but knew that he really belonged in big cities.
He has lived/worked and travelled around the world, in places such as Qatar, Ecuador, Thailand, Australia, and as a Peace Corps Volunteer in central Africa (training in Cameroun and Gabon and posted to the rainforests of the Republic of Congo), before settling down in Tokyo. He has been living in Tokyo for over 16 years, so his photography is inspired by the juxtaposition of the ultra-modern and traditional aspects for which this megalopolis is known.
He calls his photographic style “UrbanWeird”: emphasizing the phantasmagorical of the seemingly urban mundane through composition and using both film and digital. His main focus is anything urban (urban landscape, cityscape, street, urban abstract) and the temples and shrines that dot the city, at times existing harmoniously and other times not so harmoniously, but interestingly, with the vertical steel and glass bones of the city. He does also enjoy photographing the sublime natural wonders that surround Tokyo that help contain the urban chaos.
Extended Artist Statement
My photographic work reflects my interest in the concept of The City as a living being both independent of and intimately connected to The Human. Because cities are beings, they have the same complexities as humans, e.g., changing moods from melancholia and broken to proud and whimsical; in other words, wonderfully weird. One goal with my photography is to convey to the viewer such diverse ‘emotions’ of The City, i.e., to discover a personal connection with it. Another goal is to give the viewer an opportunity to just contemplate his/her place, mentally or physically, in relation to the urban environment. How does he/she feel/fit in with the towering scrapers, littered alleys, masses of unimaginable diverse inhabitants, and crisscrossing orderly chaos of trains, subways, and cars? Is this all alien, a fantasy; or is it just too real?
Because of my upbringing in rural Pennsylvania in the US, The City has always been a fantastical world, something so different and wonderful; a place of hardened gritty acceptance where one can be who they really are. Even though I have been living in cities for a good part of my life now, I still have that sense of living in a fantasy world where things are just weird enough to be interesting and many times disconcerting. For this reason, I predominately shoot in both black & white and color. The City is multi-dimensional so limitingThe City to just one would not do it justice. The same goes for format. I shoot in digital and with film.
I do photograph natural landscapes, but it is from the perspective as someone willingly connected to the urban experience. Thus, my imaging of natural landscapes is influenced by the absence of the urban. When I am photographing outside the city, I try to avoid anything suggesting its tentacled reach in my images – including people. The natural scene has to be the total antithesis of the city for me. I call my images of such natural scenes ‘anti-urban landscapes’.
The main influences in my photography are not only other photographers, such as André Kertesz, Daido Moriyama, William Eggleston, and Stephen Shore, but also writers and novelists of the dark fantasy subgenre of the New Weird, particularly China Miéville, who often sets their stories and novels in outlandish decadent cities both imagined and real. Thus, I constantly aspire to have my photography be the photographic equivalent; an ‘UrbanWeird’. Thus, the keywords I think of when out shooting is "decadence", "Banality" and the Japanese concept of "Wabi-Sabi".
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