Public eye #27

Brian Scott Peterson (33) in Hiroo

Public eye #27

Brian Scott Peterson, Photographer

That’s a big bag, isn’t it? What have you got in it?
BSP: There’s a camera. I usually carry about four, but today I’ve only got one.

Are you a photographer?
BSP: Yes, I am. I take photographs, and I run different projects, and I also write essays. My grandparents were journalists. My father had a lot of old cameras, and I got my start when I ‘borrowed’ one of them.

How long have you lived in Tokyo?
BSP: 6 years. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve liked Japan – for some reason I was always thinking about it. It’s difficult to explain, but... In America we have a saying, ‘the elephant in the room’, and it means that there is a really big elephant in the room, and even though everyone knows it’s there they all pretend they don’t. For me, Japan was like that elephant. [Laughs] It’s really unique, and a little strange; I think there’s no other city like Tokyo.

Why did you decide to live in Tokyo?
BSP: Before I lived here, I’d travelled not just in Japan, but in other places like Nepal and Thailand. I was here just at the time that George Bush had been re-elected as president and I thought, ‘I don’t really want to go home for a while.’ I’m from Oklahoma, in America, but yeah – actually, I haven’t been home since then. But, Time Out – when I was travelling, I used the Time Out guide books. [Laughs]

I’m glad to hear that. Well, I guess you’ve been to a lot of different places using your guide books, but in Tokyo, if you are going to take a photo, is there one place you would definitely go?
BSP: I’d go to Shimokitazawa. And I really like yokocho [side streets]. I also like shitamachi [downtown] areas like Yanaka and Sendagi. I like how they seem genuine – the real thing! Everyone is really friendly and you can really feel their vitality. What I think is photogenic in particular is shrines. The other day I went to Suitengu Shrine, and it was fantastic. There are no other buildings quite like Japanese shrines.

Where do you go to buy cameras?
BSP: Shinjuku, Ueno, Nakano, Ginza… lots of places. Anywhere that sells cameras, I’ll go. I’ll even look for cameras in places like Yokohama, Kyoto and Osaka. Japanese brands like Mamiya, Nikko and Fuji are really popular abroad. I like Polaroid too. My favourite camera of all, which I have been using, is the Fujipet Thunderbird, which was made in the 1960’s; but yesterday I dropped mine and it broke into pieces. It was terrible.

You’re wearing a hat, so I didn’t notice, but you have long hair, don’t you?
BSP: Recently, a lot of people have been telling me I look like Ryoma Sakamoto. [Laughs] Since then, it’s got to me and I’ve read a lot of books about Ryoma. He’s someone who achieved a lot of things and it’s had a big effect on me. I had my wedding in Japanese clothing and because it’s been so hot I’ve been going out in yukata[a casual cotton kimono]. I can even do up the obi [sash] myself! Yukata suit people with a bit of a belly, so they’re good, aren’t they? [Laughs]

More from Brian

‘My wife is Japanese, and she’s very good at cooking. My favourite dish that she cooks is yakizakana [grilled fish].’

‘A friend gave me a poster of Ryoma Sakamoto, so I’ve put it up in my office. I think it’ll give me some brilliant inspiration.’ [Laughs]

‘When I go to shitamachi areas, I feel like the circle of people around me is expanding, like 1+1=3.’

By Akiko Toya
Photos by Mai Michitsuji
Translated by Virginia Okno
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.



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