• Shawn Griffin

Tokyo Re-Disposed


As a child of the 90s, I was graced with the height of the VHS era. I owned a literal library of these magic, plastic tomes projected my childhood through a tube of light and directly into my brain for at least the first 16 years of my life. Although my library gave me literally hundreds of VHS tapes to consume, much like a scared intern at a downtown bar, I continuously went back to what was most colorful and easy to consume. This resulted in me playing Rock-a-Doodle so many times that I broke the film reel in 3 different tapes.


Glen Campbell plays a rooster who thinks he's Elvis... basically 1991's "Moonlight".

But then at a certain age, we no longer value these repeats. We seek out new experiences. We move from the intern in the bar to the entry level executive in the bar and, likewise, start ordering stuff with bizarre names that piss off the bartender, but makes you look "adventurous" to your Tinder date. Then, when you go back to these experiences again, your heat breaks as you dust off your old VHS to discover that Beverly Hills Ninja was actually a terrible movie.


Not even Robin Shou's magical jawline could make me sit through 2 hours about how Chris Farley probably shouldn't be a ninja.

In a sad and unexpected similarity, the same could be said about my most recent trip to Tokyo, and my revitalization of the Disposable Tokyo project. Back in February, I posted a project that began my disposable camera obsession called Disposable Tokyo in an effort to rekindle my love affair with the city that I have visited more than any other (this trip marked visit 9).



This trip was, however, under a different circumstance... job hunting.  And ended up being my first negative experience I have associated with this city in my 8 years of visiting it. It was like watching Eat, Pray, Love, every year for 8 years. Each time, Julia Roberts goes on the same trip with the same ending, but weird and exciting things happen each time in between. Maybe she finds a secret art gallery filled with robot penguins, maybe she gets conned by a cafe full of women dressed like ninja-maids, or maybe she gets awkwardly stuck in a 6 floor porn shop and can't find the exit (these may or may not have been referenced from real life).



But then, one year, your VHS tape breaks, so you buy another copy, but this time, Julia Roberts wanders around awkwardly for two weeks, gets depressed, and leaves Tokyo unemployed.



Maybe, I should try being "Pretty Woman" Julia Roberts. She had a pretty sweet job in that, right?

The point is, the trip was unexpectedly different, so it caused my photography to also be unexpectedly different.

The photos in my ReDisposal of Tokyo seemed much more distant than before, both in feeling, but also in composition. About halfway through the trip, my mood changed. I didn't feel the same intrinsic  connection to the city as I used to, and it caused my view to be more as that of an outsider looking in than a person immersed in the city. I was feeling like Tokyo didn't want me, but, like an obsessed ex-lover, I kept taking photos of him anyway.


The experience didn't leave me with a great feeling at the time, but it did give me an ultimately positive takeaway. I've been on an upward roller-coaster of admiration for Tokyo for my whole life which can almost be systematically tracked through my photos of the city. No relationship, regardless of if it is with a person, a job, or a weird obsession with a city will always be an upward track, there have to be dips every once in a while. But as you experience the dips, you get more used to them, and it teaches you to handle the unexpected drops without them completely derailing you.


And besides, a roller-coaster with no drops wouldn't be very exciting, would it...




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