This week, I came across the photography of a Japanese person with an incredible talent. Masashi Wakui takes photos of Tokyo's back alleys at night — with high-performing compact cameras like the Sony RX100 and Ricoh GR — and then refines them into masterworks of color, atmosphere, and beauty.
First of all, it's obvious that Wakui has a great eye for picking out everyday scenes and geometries that seem unexciting at first, but are rich on interesting little details and convey something about the daily routine of life in Japan. But what amazes me about his pictures is the utterly magical manipulation he puts them through. He boosts the colors and plays with hazes and reflections to an awesome effect. Though obviously artificial, the photos somehow have more depth and nuance, and the otherworldly quality of the colors feels familiar and friendly. This is basically a collection to convert anyone who would argue that photo manipulation is inherently bad.
I think the most attractive quality of Wakui's photos is the way they combine the best of street photography — i.e. reality — with the look and feel of the comics and encyclopedias I used to read growing up. Every pixel is dripping with mood. And that just doesn't happen without tampering with the original.
As Terry Pratchett put it in Hogfather, fantasies and fictions are fundamental, not merely frivolous, parts of our existence as a species:
"Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape."
We need to sometimes break with reality, but it's always most fun when some element of the here and now lingers in that escapism. This is the thing I find in these photos. So do your brain a favor and let it run wild through the magical Tokyo of Wakui's photography.