Fujikawaguchiko is a town in Japan situated by Lake Kawaguchiko, one of the Fuji Five Lakes that surround Mount Fuji. It’s a stop off point for tourists and hikers for easy access to Mount Fuji with a train station, local buses and a few cafes and walking shops. When I arrived in the town it was a cloudy afternoon, I got some noodles from the 711 and sat by the lake trying to work out where Mount Fuji could be in the distance. The next morning however was clear blue skies and the volcano towered over the town so bright and close that it was unbelievable to think it couldn’t be seen the day before. What had seemed like a very ordinary, passing through sort of place now fascinated me so I took my camera out and spent the morning documenting every day life in this sleepy town through the traces of the people that existed there. All these amazing little moments and spaces kept presenting themselves at every corner which could’ve been so easily missed due to the distraction of the giant volcano. Vegetable patches, peaches drying in the sun, electric cables and street signs all seeming slightly mishmash and chaotic in contrast to the perfectly symmetrical Fuji-san looming over it all, making everything seem smaller.
Mount Fuji has been a source of inspiration for many artists working in a range of mediums for centuries, making it one of the most iconic and recognisable sites in the world. You think of Mount Fuji and see the 1000‘s of photographs you’ve subconsciously processed of it standing tall, sharp and dominating a natural landscape of cherry blossoms and water that it’s always surrounded by. There was something very surreal about seeing it for the first time in real life within the landscape of a town. In one instance it seemed completely removed from it’s environment and unreal, like a painted backdrop stuck behind some cardboard houses on a film set. In the next, it seemed within reach as though you could walk straight up to it and touch the top. I feel the quality of the film really adds to these illusions, brightens the colours and just makes the whole visual story seem more surreal.
I tend to describe myself as a photographer who doesn’t take photo’s as often, when I visit a place for the first time, I prefer to embrace the experience of being there rather then photograph it. Taking a photo takes me out of the moment and detaches me from the situation and in doing so fogs my memory. When I try to remember a place I’ve been where I have photographed it I just remember the photos. Even now revisiting these images taken almost 2 years ago and retelling my experience of being there, I begin to question the reality of what I think I’ve remembered and described. When a particular moment or story really stands out to me, something unusual or particularly special, I can’t help but capture it. Using film to do this is important to me as I like the idea that an object has been created to exist from that moment. Almost as though this object replaces my memory. I tend to shoot all my documentary work on 35mm compact camera’s which I collect from charity and tip shops - although I also like to play around with medium format and camera-less photography for more experimental work.
This series is all shot on my Kodak S1100 XL and (coincidentally) on 35mm Fuji film. I take this same camera with me on all my travels as it’s small, lightweight and hard-wearing and I like the instantaneous nature of a point and shoot autofocus camera. I then hand-process my films as I enjoy the ritual, the anticipation, working with my hands and with the chemicals. There’s something satisfying about knowing I’ve created the image myself. It also gives you a level of control over how the film turns out, adjusting temperatures or development times to alter the grain or contrast. My favourite part is the moment you take the film strip out the tank, hold it up to the light, still wet and slightly bubbly from the stabilizer and see a reversed version of your image for the first time.