People of Japan is a snapshot of daily life across Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka Favorite 



Mar 1 2021



For his latest project, Mark Manzi found himself outside of his comfort zone. For the Amsterdam-based photographer and designer, People of Japan was an attempt to break from his photography-first portfolio. “In the past, my work was very image-focused, whereas with this book I wanted to scan objects, collect receipts, record noises, add copy, and really create something visually striking,” he says.

In 2019, the photographer took a trip across Japan, from Tokyo to Osaka, seeking to capture scenes of daily life as he went. Since Japanese cities have very few rubbish bins for public use — most were removed following the 1995 sarin gas attacks and a cultural aversion to littering meant they never needed to be replaced — Mark would regularly accrue a collection of ephemera from his daily adventures. “I’d look at the stuff and really think back on the day, which helped me create more of a story from the items. Also, Japanese design is fantastic. My favourite item was a disposable bag I got in Takayama, because of the struggle I went through explaining to the vendor that I just wanted to buy a bag -- not her apples.”

The resultant work is an intricate observation of the quotidian and digital culture’s role within it, captured from an outsider’s perspective across a number of Japanese cities: a schoolgirl crosses a street clutching her parents’ hands, her uniform and satchel not unlike their business casual attire; a young woman purses her lips as she scrolls down on her phone in the rain; another looks off into the middle distance, her phone sitting blankly by her side. It is a picture of serenity.

These familiar scenes are documented through a selection of images and words -- the latter provided by collaborator Paul Humphries. When Mark invited the London-based writer and architect onto the project, he did so knowing that the multi-disciplinary artist would bring a different perspective to the table. But Paul was a little nervous. “Nearly all of my writing to date has been grounded in the subject of architecture. So, this book was the first time I really stepped out of the sphere,” Paul tells i-D.

Paul says that he wrote based on observation, but also about a few fictional scenarios. “Some of which soon became reality!” he points out. Such as “working from home, or in cyber offices. I think what stood out to me, in a comical way, is that social media is essentially now a measure of our happiness, broadly speaking.”

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