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Japan · Sean Fennessy

Through My Eyes

We are excited today to launch a brand new content series, in partnership with Olympus. ‘Through My Eyes’ is a four part series of photo essays, authored by four talented Australian creatives from very different disciplines, and different walks of life.

We’re kicking the series off with someone who should need no introduction. Sean Fennessy is our longest serving collaborator – a seriously talented Melbourne photographer whose clients include Monocle, Wallpaper*, Vogue Living and Nowness to name a few. Sean has recently returned from a trip to Japan, where he created a series of photos using the new Olympus PEN-F camera. We’re super chuffed to share them with you today.


29th April, 2016
Sean Fennessy
Friday 29th April 2016

I’m a photographer based in Melbourne. As of last December I’ve been shooting freelance for 10 years, which came as a shock because I still consider myself a beginner. Recently I’ve been shooting a lot of travel stories for various magazines here and overseas. This year I’ve had a couple of trips to New Zealand and I just got back from Sri Lanka. I love this aspect of my job but it’s not all lounging by the pool and sipping from coconuts. More often than not it’s 5am call times and airport food, but it’s still a lot of fun. When I’m at home I shoot interiors, portraits and general ‘lifestyle’ photography (although I’m still trying to work out exactly what that means!).

Ever since watching Lost In Translation I’ve been pretty fascinated with contemporary Japanese culture from an outsider’s perspective. I love Japan for the magical vending machines, futuristic toilets, delicious food and friendly locals, but there’s also a very visible problem with plastic packaging. If you buy a coffee at a convenience store, it often comes in its own tray, which is placed inside a bag with an individually wrapped spoon. If it’s raining, they’ll put a plastic bag over the paper bag to keep it dry. It’s crazy! Even houses and cars have a cartoon-like quality that makes them seem disposable. For this series I wanted to allude to this culture, as well as themes of order and organisation, which are so ingrained in Japanese life. As a visitor to Japan, there’s a lot of cultural quirks and oddities that are impossible to ignore.

I was interested in the quieter moments I kept noticing as I walked through the backstreets of Tokyo. (I had plenty of time to do this while my wife Jess was browsing in yet another designer ceramic or bespoke stationery store!) In the busier parts of Tokyo there is total sensory overload, which I find difficult to photograph. It’s hard enough just trying to navigate the footpath and crowds without tripping over.

From a purely visual perspective, the inherent tones of the city are very muted and soft, which appeals to me. I was also eager to continue a series I started in Japan back in 2009 (you can check it out here), which coincidentally I shot on an old Olympus Trip 35 film camera, which is very similar to the original Olympus Pen.

On this trip, I shot the series with an Olympus PEN-F camera. The camera is small and responsive, the controls are easy to use and the files are nice and big – overall it’s a great camera for travelling. I chose to shoot with the 25mm 1.8 prime lens, which is equivalent to 50mm on an SLR.

The three topiary trees in the car park is one of my favourite shots. To me, there’s something very Japanese about putting so much effort into some fairly scrappy-looking trees in a nondescript car park. Also I love Japanese characters and signage. You’re forced to focus on the basic graphic qualities when you have no idea what a sign says.

For the true camera enthusiast. The Masterpiece : Olympus PEN F.

Melbourne-based photographer Sean Fennessy, with the Olympus PEN-F camera.

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