Photography in Tokyo: A Land of Contrast

Eric completed an application portfolio, essay, and interview for the National Geographic Photography Program, and was selected for the exclusive ten-day excursion by his Digital Photography instructor, Mr. Miseroy, and Career Technical Education (CTE) Career Counselor, Mr. Aspinwall.
Eric Walker
“Greetings from Tokyo, Japan, land of the rising sun! We’ve finished our first full day and it was one to remember, exploring some of Tokyo’s fascinating contrasts - Kawaii culture in Akihabara and traditional culture at the Meiji Shrine. The day started off with getting to know James Whitlow Delano and his work. James is a long-time Tokyo resident and National Geographic Photographer. He introduced us to how he became a photographer, his work, and his approach to street photography in Japan. We discussed the ethics of photographing people in public, strategies for getting candid moments, and how to approach people and ask to take their portrait… Tokyo is a city of extremes living in harmony. On one side it feels like you’re living in the future, it’s modern and high-tech with neon lights, never-ending shopping, advertisements and crazy fashion. However, on the other side, there is ancient traditional Japan acting as a counter-balance. Quiet and serene temples and parks dot the city, giving residents here a place to rest, relax, and de-stress.” READ THE BLOG
A Few Words from Eric
In the beginning of my junior year in high school I enrolled in Digital Photography. From the first day I was intrigued, and the class soon became my favorite part about going to school. I decided to save up the money I was making at my current job to buy a camera of my own. I would go out to parks, farmer’s markets, and various parts of Downtown LA to take pictures. 

In school, my POLAHS teachers would always make time for me whenever I needed help with something, and because of that I was able to keep my education on track even during tougher sections of the curriculum. Through my Digital Photography classes, I discovered not only a new hobby but a career path. The teacher behind the program, Mr. Miseroy, helped me make the idea of doing photography a reality by offering me volunteer photography jobs and having hands-on learning outside of the classroom. I also earned my Adobe Associate Certification through the two-year pathway.
I wanted to participate in the National Geographic Program because traveling has always been one of my dreams. I have always wanted to experience different cultures and to get a chance to capture them through my photography excited me. I would also watch a lot of travel photographers and almost all of them visited Japan at one point in their carrier. Joe Allam, one of these traveling photographers, even said that all photographers should visit Tokyo at some point in their life.So both my eagerness to travel and my love for photography made me determined to apply. 

About 40 students from all over the U.S and other parts of the world participated; there were students from China to Ukraine. All of us met at the airport before we left for Tokyo, and 40 of us instantly connected through our love for photography. I’ve stayed in contact with most, and even plan on visiting some of them soon. 
I can only describe Tokyo as futuristic and clean, almost everywhere we walked there were bright lights and the tallest buildings I've ever seen! My favorite part of the experience had to be visiting the Tsukiji Fish Market. 
This is a world famous fish market where tuna auctions are held. This fish market will be moved to an offshore island soon, and this was the last time any of us would see it. It made our photos mean that much more. At 8:30am each day, we would all meet up in front of the hotel and split up into smaller groups of 10. We would all go to the classroom so we could have a space to edit and critique photos. During our time in the classroom, we learned more about our photo leaders and what they do for a living. We learned photography techniques such as how to take candid shots in a bustling city! We would then meet at the subway which was our main mode of transportation throughout the entire trip. We visited some of the main districts such as Shibuya and Harajuku. We visited smaller towns too, and even got to go to a baseball game. We also photographed the Meiji Shrine, Kawaii culture in Akihabara (known for its arcades, games, and shopping), and Mount Fuji! I returned home with amazing photographs that I can’t believe I was able to create. 
I would like to thank my donor for giving me a once in a lifetime experience that will stay with me forever. In all my life I could have never guessed that I would get to do something so amazing that I would learn so much from. Photography will only become more prominent in my life as I grow. 

Photos by Eric Walker