Vibrant depictions of Tokyo citizens commuting by train and foot were among the photographs adorning the Root Cellar Café Saturday at the opening of a new exhibit by Sean Brecht, a social documentary photographer.
Brecht’s exhibit, called “Tokyo Pop,” opened with a gathering of both friends of the photographer and community members who came to see the product of Brecht’s photographic work in Tokyo. The body of work is a photo essay about the city of Tokyo as a multilayered culture.
Brecht became interested in photography as a child because he was fascinated by the way pictures could tell stories. His most recent work comes from his time living in Japan on-and-off for more than 30 years—and Tokyo, specifically, for more than 15 years.
“(Tokyo) is something I’m enormously fascinated by, and as my photography continued to migrate, the scope of my photography has narrowed to more social documentary work, and I think, from a social standpoint, there’s no place in the world more fascinating than Tokyo,” Brecht said.
Part of his interest in Tokyo stems from its high population density over a small area of land.
“It’s kind of fascinating on many different levels: from a historical sense, from a geographic sense and from a social sense,” Brecht said.
Brecht said one challenge he faced when taking the photographs was to express the population density while still conveying a sense of efficiency in the still-frame shots.
Those who came were impressed by different elements he used in his photos.
“I like the subject matter he chooses,” said Jane Matthews, a friend of Brecht. “I’m very surprised because I’ve seen the work on computers, but it was never as startling as this is.”
Tom Popple, who hadn’t met Brecht before but is himself a photographer, also complimented Brecht’s artistic choices.
“I really like the way he frames things,” Popple said. “A lot of the photographs make your eye move through the picture, which is a really important aspect of photography.”
Popple and Matthews were not the only ones who liked the photos.
“It’s phenomenal,” said Chase Harris, another friend of Brecht. “It’s very Sean. It’s dynamic; it’s pop; it’s great color power; it’s everything; it’s perfect depth of field; it’s focus.”
Cathy Ball, who has known Brecht since she was 7 years old, thinks he has an eye for things that others might not notice.
“He’s so smart,” Ball said. “He catches things that you wouldn’t normally, that some people’s eye wouldn’t see, and Sean captures it.”
“Tokyo Pop” has already been showcased in the city of Tokyo last month, and Brecht plans to take the exhibit to more galleries in the future.