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
Jacob Aue Sobol became a nominee at Magnum Photos in 2007.
Jacob Aue Sobol won the European Publishers Award for Photography in 2008. This award has been bestowed for the past 15 years by a group of publishers which in 2008 comprised: Actes Sud (France), Apeiron (Greece), Dewi Lewis Publishing (UK), Edition Braus (Germany), Lunwerg Editores (Spain), Mets&Schilt (Netherlands) and Peliti Associati (Italy). Tokyo will be published by each of these houses.