Image Deconstruction- Raymond Depardon, ‘Japan, Tokyo’

Raymond Depardon’s photo ‘Japan, Tokyo’ taken in 2004 presents Tokyo as the fast, colourful and hectic place it is perceived or at least believed to be.  The image shows the crowded streets and the irony of how lonely one of the busiest places in the world can be. At eye level, Depardon is capturing photos right in front of people yet no one batters an eyelid or pays any attention to him what’s so ever. The photograph cries out loneliness, the bright lights unreachable up high and the dark colours of the street below, no person so much as looking let alone talking to another. It is as if happiness is as inaccessible as those lights above the crowds.

The use of the natural location (Japan, Tokyo) helps convey the theme of loneliness and isolation in this image.  As a capitalist nation everyone wants to strive for the best they can get, for what they put in they will receive back. Depardon has visually captured this concept as people walk by without any means of communication or regard for others, it is a selfish photograph, one which highlights the negatives of a self centered community, “Capitalism has destroyed our belief in any effective power but that of self interest backed by force” (Shaw, date not known, online). The pedestrians are forcibly walking by; no photographer is going to stop him or her from reaching their goal. Shooting this scene at night also amplifies the isolation heavily featured in it. The classic connotations of the nighttime (lonely, mysterious, secretive etcetera) all play their part in further generating a lonesome scene. The pedestrians are striving away from the lights towards the darkness, a hair raising thought at the best of times. It is almost as if they are about to leave the hustle and bustle of Tokyo behind them as they set out alone into the world beyond the photograph.

The blurred movement in the image accentuates the speed at which people are moving away from each other, there appears to be no desire to stay in each other’s company or in that particular environment. In turn, the straight on camera angle allows the viewer to feel part of that crowd and the ambition to be out of it along with the walkers.  A high angle would have been too impersonal and omnipotent, to truly feel others sense of rush and determination one should be amongst it, not merely observing. Depardon has placed himself amid the subjects he is photographing in order to be on their level and publish them in an honest light, a trait documentary photographers cherish. He has almost made it look as though he is using panning along side the straight angle to draw attention and create emphasise on their movement. Again this fast movement he has photographed yells out loneliness as no one appears to stay or want others company.

Through the use of colour Depardon has created a sense of chaos that a black and white image would not be able to replicate. The lack of colour would have drained the energy and sapped out the vivacity needed to fully highlight the contrast between the isolation of the people and the city they are in. The colour in it captures the attention of viewers and draws the eye to all of the different means of light sources in the photograph, such as the inaccessible lanterns and billboards, a focal point to the image. Stereotypically colour is used to express the emotion of happiness and joy, whereas here it has been skillfully applied to convey busyness and the lonely city life. It appears that no one in the frame has noticed the vast amount of lights and colour around them confirming their determination to leave and their want to walk on by, something a black and white image would not convey.

In conclusion Raymond Depardon has used various subliminal techniques to put across the meaning of loneliness and isolation in his photograph ‘Japan, Tokyo’. Not only through the actual content of the photograph (people walking by alone) but the use of light, location, angle and colour, all combining to create a documentary photograph highlighting the secluded lives of the pedestrians captured around him, oblivious to others and their surroundings. It would be wrong to think of this as a communicative shot of the streets of Tokyo for that would be an insult to Depardon. Whilst the walkers may be amongst other people and part of a crowd, Depardon has shown the world that even the biggest of crowds can be the loneliest of places.

Raymond Depardon’s photo ‘Japan, Tokyo'

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