Tokyo Blues

  • Helsinki-based photographer Nurri Kim recently released the first Do Projects book Tokyo Blues in collaboration with former Tokyo-resident Adam Greenfield.

    The publication, which can be downloaded for free, contains an interesting photo series focusing on just one peculiar thing you find everywhere in the Japanese capital: the common blue PVC plastic construction tarp. “I doubt you could spend half a day in any of the wards of central Tokyo without tripping over a dozen of them”, Greenfield explains. The ‘ubiquitous tarp’ has many roles, which are profoundly investigated by Kim.

    “From construction sites and homeless settlements to cherry-blossom viewing parties in the park, the ubiquitous blue tarp is a constant of Japanese life and a bearer of multiple registers of meaning. In sixty-four images from the boulevards, alleys, sidestreets and interstitial spaces, ‘Tokyo Blues’ explores these dramatically different contexts, returning something ‘we see too often, and then forget to see’ to full, vivid visibility.”

    Tokyo Blues

    Aim of the book is to provoke the readers “to see the city around them with new eyes”. As Kim left the tarps blue and turned the rest of the photos black and white, the materials visually scream for attention and emphasize the larger than expected role of the sheets in Tokyo’s public space. Residents of Tokyo use the blue tarps to both draw attention and to deflect it. According to Greenfield, they represent the Japanese soul in different ways: shelter (provisional home, simple protection), property (claimed space), and transition (the place or thing is passing into, or out of, existence). The blue phenomenon is even be considered to be a symbolic form of urban nature which protudes from the grey, concrete metropolis.

    Tokyo Blues

    Check it out yourself. Click here to download a Creative Commons-licensed PDF of Tokyo Blues, or to purchase a copy. Currently Adam Greenfield is working on a new publication entitled The City Is Here For You To Use, which explores future urban scenarios with increasing roles for ubiquitous computing and smart, networked technologies.