Paris-based photographer, Gerard Touren, was handed his first camera at the age of 12 by his father who taught him how to take photographs and develop film in darkrooms.
Five decades on, Touren, now 62, spent days on end wandering the streets of Tokyo on four visits between 2015 and 2017, taking thousands of shots in a single day for his photography project.
“Tokyo’s streets were like a very comfortable and pleasant dream for me. I was an outsider, walking like a tourist with my camera from 7am in the morning until 4am the next day,” Touren says with a laugh.
But only 19 images made the cut at Touren’s first London-based exhibition, Ordinary People on the Streets of Tokyo, at Sway Gallery on Old Street, which opened last Friday.
“I always try to search for the unusual, a spark of light, an expression, a kink in the day that triggers and lifts you up,” says Touren.
What was meant to be a photography trip capturing Tokyo’s vast expanse of modern tower blocks, led to Touren zooming his lens onto the daily, “ordinary” lives of the Tokyoites themselves.
On his first night in the city, Touren stumbled across a busy Tokyo road while looking for his hotel, when he saw an elderly man poised on his bike.
“In the end, I thought Tokyo’s architecture was the same as in New York and other countries. But this guy was so different clutching his clear umbrella. It was raining, and there was light coming from the back with the cars and the front from the traffic lights – it was this mix of light which illuminated his face and made him look like he was dreaming.
“I wanted to show the different people in the streets, the metro, everywhere! Anything interesting which caught my eye,” Touren explains.
But what makes Touren’s exhibition stand out, is his extensive use of black and white photographs throughout his exhibition – only five in his collection are displayed in colour.
“I see the world in black and white, and when I shoot my images I see them in the same way. This is because I worked with black and white photographs with my father since the age of twelve,” says Touren.
Tokyo – Ordinary People in Tokyo Streets is at Sway Gallery, London until March 28.