Ao: fashion model in Tokyo, Japan

Fashion photography on location in Tokyo: Ao in & around Asakusa

An hour or two floating around Asakusa and the streets to the north of the temple district gave us a chance to enjoy the last, magical light of the day.

I was introduced to Ao a few weeks ago, by friend and make-up artist Alexandria Oxspring. We did a workshop together at the end of September and a fashion shoot for London based fashion brand, Neonrose, the week after. This week we had a walk around for a couple of hours together, just to shoot a little more and keep in contact ahead of another fashion shoot we’ll be doing later this month.

Ao is a beautiful lady who enjoys the process of shooting. As a photographer, I can’t ask for more from any model I work with. As usual when I’ve recently met a model, I like to shoot as often as possible. There’s a creative bond, an exchange, between model and photographer. One good sign that things are working well is to ‘just go for a walk’ in an interesting part of town and shoot wherever we find an interesting spot.

The areas just north of Asakusa are somewhere I know well and the location was fairly convenient for Ao, as it’s not so far from where she lives. It’s been a few months since I’ve walked around there and Tokyo changes a lot in a short space of time. But we found what we needed and the light was beautiful on Thursday afternoon. I didn’t want to take any lights with me. It’s nice to lighten the load and after shooting Ao a lot with flash on the previous two shoots, I was keen just to keep things simple and work with the natural light.

There was no real direction on clothes although I’d sent Ao a photo of two vintage accessories I have; a knitwear shawl and a scarf, both 1950s or 1960s, which I’d brought home from my father-in-law’s house after he died last year. No one in my immediate family was too fussed with wearing either so, at the end of the shoot, I gifted them to Ao as she looked great in the shawl especially.

The simple, stylish knitwear dress Ao wore for the day was a perfect base for the shawl. The black boots she wore finished the outfit off really well.

We started with a plain, one-colour background… the most amazing turquoise coloured wall we found between Asakusa and Yoshiwara. From there we just walked in a wide arc back to Asakusa, chasing the last of the sun as it splashed into the backstreets.

Out on a more main road, we bumped into two delightful and cute grandmas, sitting by the road outside a hardware store gossiping with the owner. I really like the shots we got there and one of the ladies was very taken with Ao’s shawl. Seems I have a good eye for a piece of vintage knitwear. The lady spotted instantly what sort of era it was from. An era in which, I guess, she was fairly close to the age Ao is now. It was nice to see the ladies fussing over Ao, asking ‘aren’t you cold?’ and asking about her clothes. I just shot away throughout.

The last of the sun we got back by the shrines in Asakusa. The tourist hordes had thinned out a little and as I always like the way the setting sun streaks across the front of Sensoji, we grabbed a few shots up on the edge of the shrine there. The light was magical. The profile shot of Ao we took there is my favourite from the day.

Everything was shot with two cameras and one lens on each:

  • Hasselblad H4D-40 with the HC80mm f/2.8
  • Nikon D800E with an old Mamiya RB67, 127mm f/3.8 lens mounted via a Fotodiox adaptor

Editing wise?

RAW files prepped in Nikon’s Capture NXD and Hasselblad Phocus: slight adjustments, convert to TIFF. After that it was into Photoshop and no more than five minutes of processing on each picture, using Color Efex Pro and Analog Efex Pro plugins from the Google-Nik suite.

You can find Ao on Instagram, here. She’s freelance, so if you want to book her for a shoot, just send her a message via her Instagram.

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