From Tokyo to Texas

Genevieve Sawtelle, one of Alfie Goodrich’s former photography students describes her move from Japan back to the USA and how it has impacted her camera-work….

MOVING and CAREER CHANGE seem like daunting words especially in this economy. Throw a little REVERSE CULTURE SHOCK in and you’ve got yourself a prize winning mix for stress. So, when my husband and I decided to return to Austin, Texas after living in Tokyo for almost 2 years, we embarked on the experience a little less than enthusiastically.

True to our fears , the “shock” of returning to Texas was tough. Who knew that, after a few years of Japanese television neither of us could understand, American Idol would hold so little luster for us , even though we could actually understand it? Who knew that , after spending 15 minutes to decipher the katakana (if we were lucky) on restaurant menus when we ate out in Japan, we would find American restaurant menus so un-diverse ? (I’m living in a Tex-Mex HELL!) Who knew that, after hating the claustrophobic crowds , we would long for the anonymity of the crowds?

Photographically, for me, the transition was immense. I began my interest in photography in Tokyo. I took an Intro course and soon began taking private lessons with Alfie Goodrich. With Alfie, I would often shoot in Ginza, Shinjuku, or Harajuku… mostly street photography.

Upon returning to the U.S. I discovered photography took much more effort, gone were the days of stepping off a train and instantly finding something unique (unique, at least , to Western eyes). Now, photography requires a conscious effort and usually a parking fee…or, at least, a little searching for a parking space. Now, “unique” feels harder to come by.

That said, and despite my “reverse culture shock” rants, Texas is growing on me. I’ve traded in Monks for Padres, obaasans for grannies, geta for boots, and kimonos for cowboy hats…all in all, not a terrible trade. I just wish I could have BIC Camera back.

Genevieve Sawtelle

www.genevievesawtelle.com

About Japanorama

Japanorama is run by British professional photographer, Alfie Goodrich, and provides practical photography teaching in Tokyo. Weekly workshops, group and one-to-one lessons bring together photographers of all ages and abilities.

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