Neco Tabi, By Akane Ono
Yesterday I received a meticulously wrapped package from Japan in the mail: a pair of photo books that I purchased from Akane Ono, a very talented photographer I know through Flickr. Akane is primarily a chemical (film) shooter, which in itself impresses me a lot because I haven’t touched film in more than a decade and I think I’d be afraid to try it again! The kind of look that can achieved with film, however, can have a very organic and grainy feel that is often very difficult if not impossible to replicate digitally. She seems to do an immense amount of travel, as her photo books present images from places like Bangkok, Osaka, Tunisia, Taipei, Cebu, Hong Kong, and Santorini, to name a few. Yet her style is very cohesive, and she has a very distinct and focused point of view as a photographer. Why?
Because, as she describes in her Neco Tabi #1 photo book, despite the beautiful surroundings and interesting, new people she encounters in her travels, she finds herself drawn to the local cats that roam the streets of the beautiful destinations she finds herself in. The resulting photography is a wonderful collection of beautiful images of fascinating environments that just happen to have cats in them!
As I flip through the pages of Neco Tabi #1 and #2 (both for sale on Akane’s Website), it amazes me that the street scenes and landscapes she captures would be very pretty even if they didn’t feature little feline critters, and so it boggles me how she is able to create these fantastic compositions AND make sure there are also cats in each shot. That’s what I call artistic vision. I often hear that it’s a great creative exercise to give yourself photographic assignments that focus on something specific, as it can enhance your creativity. It seems that because of her specific dedication to meeting new feline friends in different parts of the world, Akane has simply developed a natural ability to interact with and photograph these creatures in a very creative and sort of photo-journalistic way.
I can’t get within 15 feet of a cat in the city without it scurrying away. How she manages to get so close to these animals without them bolting off, and snap photos of these creatures with what seems like their full cooperation…another mystery. But my favorite thing about the Neco Tabi series is that I really do feel like I’m getting a taste of what it’s like in all of these other countries, and I’m doing it from a cat’s eye view!
I think my favorite photo among all the others in both books would have to be a shot of a brightly lit, old and weathered alley in Tunis. Taken from a low angle, you see a small, wheeled cart and a cardboard box sitting on top of a battered brick floor. Right in the middle of the alley sits a small white cat with a blank look on its face, staring right at the camera. Cute! But as you let your eyes move from the white cat and over to the right of the frame, you see a very old and worn door open, with rubble on the ground at its opening. Also staring straight at the camera, you then see another tiny cat, so very small and well camouflaged among the rubble. I could have sworn that first cat was the only one in the photo when I first looked at it, but somehow the composition naturally leads your eye to the second, well concealed one. So brilliant!
I won’t show you the photo, because you really should buy her books and see it for yourself!