This time for our ‘Closer Look’ series, ‘Out Of Focus’ explores the work of photographer Adam Tværgård. Tværgård’s series of photographs depicting the cities of Japan at day and night is currently available for purchase through our website.
Japan is a country of contrasts, where the high-rises and modern buildings of Tokyo are juxtaposed with ancient temples and monuments. “I’ve always been fascinated with Japan and Japanese culture,” Tværgård says. Having traveled through the country three times, including a three-month stay in 2015, he views Japan as one of the most unique cultures to explore because of the combination of a rich and long history with modern pop culture and influence from the West.
“The juxtaposition of new and old and east and west is something I’ve wanted to document through photography. In addition, Japan has a very special relationship with nature and the spiritual that is equally juxtaposed with the Japanese technological development. You can walk around a modern city with skyscrapers, giant neon signs and sounds coming at you from all sides and then suddenly you turn a corner and find yourself in a little shrine with trees and water shielded from the busy city around it. Furthermore, there is of course a whole lot of anime culture in the cityscape and again this is something I find very unique. It also creates some special photo opportunities.”
Tværgård continues. “Since most big cities were destroyed during WWII, there is a lot of newer concrete structures in the cities, most of which are grey. But because the Japanese pop culture is such a common thing, the colors from ads, posters and stores saturate the cityscape and block out most of the grey. Playing with light, color and the cultural juxtaposition in all their forms is what drew me to Japan again and again.”
The photographs represented by ‘Out Of Focus’ are the combined efforts of all three journeys.
Tværgård elaborates further on his artistic process. “Most of my photography includes little planning on what exactly the subject will be. I prefer being rather spontaneous and wait for my eyes to catch something of interest first. Usually, when I go to places like Japan, I plan a day trip to certain areas of the city I think would be interesting visually - not knowing what will actually turn up. Therefore I’m rarely surprised and my pictures usually end up not too differently than how I imagined them because I didn’t preplan them. I don’t come up with a composition until I have a motive.”
Tværgård mentions that if there’s one thing that has surprised him about Japan specifically, it is how many random things in the cityscape that are actually very photogenic. “Just going from point A to point B includes a myriad of interesting subjects that could make whole projects in their own right. For me, a lot of creating a project about Japan is documenting everything I find interesting and then create the themes and narratives afterwards when you know what you have. It’s a different approach to the way I photograph my home city of Copenhagen. In Copenhagen, I usually go to an area with a specific theme in mind, even though I haven’t chosen the specific motive yet. It could be that I wanted to take photographs of graffiti today or maybe shops, churches or something else. But in Tokyo, I have to stay open for a sudden idea or motive that could spring up at any moment. Instead of documenting select themes, it’s much more about documenting the city as a whole.”
Growing up in Copenhagen, Denmark, Tværgård’s father was a physics teacher and his mother an artist and anthropologist. Right from the start, movies, art and music was a big part of his upbringing and his mom was herself an avid photographer. “Taking pictures and learning about composition and other photography techniques and terms has always been a part of my life. On top of that, my interest in filmmaking also included an interest in cinematography, which again taught me a lot about using different lenses and cameras. I have worked on several film projects and for a time I went to the European Film College here in Denmark to expand my skills and knowledge about filmmaking. While I don’t make films anymore, the passion for still photography carries on. My preferred subject has always been cities and street photography. I love walking around Copenhagen and finding interesting streets, graffiti or buildings. In addition to my interest in urban subjects, I’ve also always been fascinated with lighting. Taking pictures of a band playing on a lit stage or in a city at night is a good way to use lighting in interesting ways.”
All artists need inspiration. Tværgård reflects on what drives him. “It changes over time,” he says. “The fascination with urban architecture and culture is a big part of it. The shapes of the buildings and the way humans live and shape their environment is something I’ve always thought made interesting pictures. The different textures of concrete, brick, glass and steel create a certain look that I love to capture. On top of that, cities are often bathed in different kinds of light from artificial and natural sources, and the shine of the neon in cities such as Tokyo is beautiful if you can catch it in a photo. In daylight, shadows are created by people and buildings and that adds an additional layer for you to play with as a photographer. There is a level of experimentation and discovery in photography that I am very fascinated by and enjoy exploring when I am traveling or just walking around in my home city.”
Another thing that inspires Tværgård is looking at the work of other photographers on places such as Instagram. “I’ve found a handful of photographers I look up to and watching their work inspires me to try new things and look new places when I go hunting for subjects with my camera,” he concludes. “Overall it all comes down to appreciating the world we live in and wanting to share what you see with others. There are many ways to do this in art but for me photography is what I prefer.”
Limited edition numbered prints of Tværgård’s photographs remain available for sale. Explore his work here.