Sato Shintaro -Tokyo and Osaka by night

If Sally Mann’s work depicts the rich light of the American South in her work then  Sat Shintaro present and altogether different view of Japan. Born in 1969 this Japanese photographer appears to base much of his image making scenes lit by artificial light. Reading the blurb of his picture book Night Lights his ambition in the work is described as:

‘His goal was not to show the popular locations and more recognised scenes, but rather the everyday disorder of the brightly lit urban landscape after dark.’

Shooting in the period when the sun has set but astronomical darkness has not yet ocured (the sun being 18 degrees or more below the horizon) referred to as the ‘blue period’ this strange light that is neither dusk nor night time offers a very evocative backdrop to his work.

There is something very engaging but also oppressive in the brightly coloured images of signage in the streets of Tokyo and Osaka that play the western stereotypical view of these busy cities. The bright primary and secondary colours of both printed and illuminated signs say something about how in a confined space the inhabited are offered very high levels of advertising. They raise questions about what it must be like to live in a Japanese city where the inhabitants must be constantly bombarded by neon bright advertising on an epic scale.

The image below illustrates this idea but also presents a paradox in the contrast between the business of the advertising and the emptiness of the street. I suspect this might be as a result of slow shutter long exposures that record the detail of the scen but the moving citizens are rendered invisible in the long explore. Given my developing interest in the use of slow shutter image making I will research this further.

Sato 1

Copyright Sato Shintaro

His work which would appear to fit into the urban landscape tradition also paints a view of the wider Tokyo landscape. The image below taken after a fall of snow create an almost sureeal view of a complex human constructed landscape that again seems devoid of inhabitants

sato 2

Copyright Sato Shintaro

In terms of the beauty of artificial light this work really show the possibilities of the beauty of night-time photography and present a very different set of constructs when as photographers we consider the nature of light. This work has without doubt influenced me in much the same way the Rut Blees Luxemburg’s work in London has influenced my thinking about the exercises in this section of the course.


Shintaro, S. (2014) – Night Lights, Seigensha, Tokyo

Shintaro, S, at:


One thought on “Sato Shintaro -Tokyo and Osaka by night

  1. Pingback: Assignment 4 -Languages of light: Revisiting Exercise 4.3 | John Adrian Orr

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