Tokyo-based photographer Irwin Wong claims he shoots portraits like a kid collecting baseball cards. For him, it is all about meeting colorful characters and documenting the experience with a powerful portrait.
“I get a huge kick out of seeing what all sorts of different people are like,” says Irwin. “Through my job I get to meet people from all sorts of different walks of life. I’ve met homeless people, rock stars, the yakuza, etcetera, and 99% of the time they are happy to let me into their lives enough for a photo to be taken.”
So, tell us about this particular experience?
“These shots are part of my portrait series Gaijin, featuring foreigners with interesting, unconventional jobs living in Japan. The strangely dressed man is Joseph Tame. He wears that outfit and blogs live while running marathons or jogging around Tokyo. That is why he has all those iPhones and iPads with him.
“While having a coffee with him in order to prepare the shoot, Joseph mentioned that every single time he jogs in that outfit, without fail, he gets stopped by a police officer who wants to know what he is up to. So, besides the fact that I thought seeing a man dressed like a nut being questioned by the police would make for a humorous scene, I also felt that a lot of non-Japanese living in Tokyo would be able to relate to that scene, as there is this underlying perception here that the police keep a special eye out for foreigners.”
How did you light these shots?
“My main light was a Profoto RFi 3′ Octa in conjunction with the RFi Speedlight Speedring and two speedlights, standing camera left. Being able to attach two speedlights to the bracket was a great help on this shoot, as you need a bit more punch in the midafternoon of a Japanese summer. This not only allowed me to retain the color in the sky, but it also meant that I could place the lights much further back, which was absolutely necessary for the framing I had in mind.
“For some mild fill, I had a bare speedlight on a stand directly behind me – just to lift the shadows a little. The same setup was used for more or less all the shots.”
This was the very first time you used the both the RFi Speedlight Speedring and the octa, right? What did you think of it?
“The RFi Speedlight Speeding definitely has a place in my bag for editorial shoots such as these. Living in Tokyo, the main form of transportation is the subway or trains above or below ground. In other words, you have to go up and down a lot of staircases. Bringing a heavy flash pack is just not an option, so it’s nice to not have the option of using a good quality softbox and with my speedlights.”
What about the actual softbox? What was it like working with Softbox RFi 3’ Octa?
“I love it. It’s a great size, especially for indoors. As you can imagine, Tokyo has its share of cramped spaces. Also, it’s just fantastic for lighting faces. You can get totally different looks depending on how close or far you place the light. Add to that the option to using a Softgrid, which in my case it’s pretty much a staple item in the bag, plus, it collapses into a manageable size and is super light. All the other Light Shaping Tools are tempting, but this one is the most versatile and essential in my opinion.”
You can see more of Irwin Wong’s documented meetings with colorful characters at his website.
Click here to read more about the RFi Speedlight Speedring.