Film Friday: Xpan ‘Triptych Tokyo’ captures the chaos of city life

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Inspiration is all around us, and even old ideas are new when you put your own spin on it. Photographer Takashi Fukukawa says he picked up his film camera when his daughter was born, but when she stopped cooperating with his desire to document her daily life he turned his gaze to the streets of Tokyo.

An avid devourer of photography and darkroom techniques, he was keen to embrace his new hobby and continue to learn. Always seeking the next growth opportunity, he recalls one day when he landed on the idea of combining multiple images into a collage to create a single larger image.

He was out one day photographing the streets of Tokyo when he came across a scene that was compelling, but try as he might it just didn’t feel right. Then he recalled seeing the work of Benjamin Lee, who had experimented with making portraits out of multiple images. Inspiration struck and Fukukawa stepped back to photograph the scene in parts.
A new project was born: ‘Triptych Tokyo,’ in which Fukukawa presents a glimpse of city life, but rearranged like a puzzle with elements drifting between frames – sometimes repeating people, sometimes juxtaposing time against history – the energy capturing the chaos of daily life in Tokyo.

A self-described ‘weekend photographer,’ his work is bold and inventive and yet deceptively simple at first glance. DPreview recently reached out to Fukukawa to learn more about his process of making making triptychs with an Xpan camera.

Note: This interview was conducted over Google Translate and edited for clarity.

How did you come to the idea to photograph with the Xpan in this way? Could you tell us where, when, and how you thought of it? What was your inspiration, how did you start?

Until about five years ago I used to take ‘normal’ panoramic photos with my Xpan.

One day, the view I wanted to capture did not fit in the angle of view of the 45mm lens of this camera, so I came up with the idea of taking split shots and combining them later.

However, this was not my original idea, but was inspired by the work of a photographer, Mr. Benjamin Lee. In a series of articles in a Japanese magazine, he published photographs of his subjects’ workplaces taken in sections with a 6×17 panoramic camera, which were then combined to reconstruct the view.

I started taking split shots based on that. If I had been able to buy a Hasselblad SWC or an Xpan 30mm lens without hesitation, I would have just taken mediocre ultra-wide-angle photos that we could now take with our iPhone camera. I was lucky I didn’t have enough money.

Did your first attempts come out the way you expected? What did you learn from photographing this way?

Of course, in the beginning I did not get the results I expected. Even now, I haven’t made much progress.

When I put together the negatives I have taken, I often don’t get a sense of continuity as a single landscape. The reasons for this vary from the way of cropping each frame, to the changing brightness of each frame (it often appeared on a cloudy day).

However, the most important thing I learned was that I cannot rely on the bright frame in the viewfinder of this camera.

Can you tell us what you like about Xpan and what feels different about this camera?

The Hasselblad Xpan is one of the few cameras that can take full panoramic photos on 35mm film. It is not a panorama-only camera and can switch between panorama and normal width during shooting, making it very convenient. It is also suitable for taking [multiple] pictures while being aware of the continuity of angles, as the automatic winding means that I don’t have to move my thumb with each release of the shutter.

I bought this Xpan over 10 years ago, second-hand. In those days people thought film cameras were becoming obsolete, so I was able to get one much cheaper than I can now.

I regret that I didn’t buy another one back then.

How did you start to do triptychs? What do you like about this approach?

I find it interesting when there are three different moments in a single landscape and three different perspectives.

I enjoy it most when I look at the developed negatives. However, I often develop the negatives long after they have been taken, so I often forget what I have shot. It is fun to look at them with a fresh mind.

What’s your advice for others wanting to play around with this process?

If people are interested in this process, I hope they enjoy using their own cameras, regardless of the equipment they have. Whether they have an Xpan or something else.

[You don’t need to use an Xpan] because the more people who read this article and want an Xpan, the more expensive my spare equipment will be!

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