Arimoto Shinya’s ariphoto series (and zines) documents his encounters with Tokyo wildlife: grinning elderly men with missing teeth; punks, goths, and heshers; hippy bikers; dog walkers; cosplay girls; homeless; I could go on. The tagline on his website sorta says it all: “TOKYO, SEEN BY MY EYES, IS AN ECOSYSTEM WITH MAGNIFICENT CIRCULATION.” I was excited to get in on an honest to goodness Japanese photo zine, and now that I have it in my hands, well…

I so want to slam this thing, but Shinya knows what he’s doing… He’s been at the freelance street photography game for over 20 years, shoots mostly medium format film, administers the Totem Pole gallery (where many of his exhibitions happen), has won a couple of awards and appeared in dozens of exhibitions and publications dating back to 1994, and has photographs in a couple of museum collections, so he knows what’s up, and I probably don’t get it.

Street Portraiture with permission is one of those things I’ve done very little of, and even the little I’ve done of it would’ve featured a grinning toothless elderly gentleman, if only he’d opened his mouth, so what do I know. Well, I know that the denizens of Tokyo must be more than the endless parade of freaks interesting people we see in the ariphoto series. Businessmen, for example, must be just all over, right? And some of them must have an interesting look or some kind of story about them. And are Japanese girls all cosplay girls? Are American expats all punks and heshers? I sort a doubt it, but that’s what we find in ariphoto. And if you surf back through Shinya’s oeuvre, you get pretty much the same view through it all.

At least he’s consistent. And the work is strong, to be sure. I just wish there was more to it, but then I’m sure I don’t get it. There’s a bit of Bruce Gilden in some of the photos, so if you get that, you’ll probably get this too.

I don’t know… that’s cruel. There’s a clear relationship between Shinya and his subjects. It’s clear that he’s stopped and interacted with them, formed some sort of minimal relationship with them. And the portraits he makes are often tender and expressive, so there’s really something there. Still…


Overall, I’d give ariphoto vol. 8 a middling 3.2 stars. But take my review with a grain of salt: as I said, I don’t really get it, and it’s really not my cup of tea, but the printing is really lovely, and I’m glad to have this copy.

ariphoto vol. 8 is still available for a measly 1000 yen, at time of writing. All of the zines are limited to 500 copies, and the first 7 volumes sold out (and now sell for much more than that, if you can find them), so some people get it.

I need to look more.

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