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Alexander McBride Wilson: Photographing 'Kaze-no-Denwa' with H6D-50c

Interviewed Alexander McBride Wilson on his documentary story of ‘Kaze-no-Denwa’ and his experience on H6D-50c.

On November 2016, London based photographer Alexander McBridge Wilson decided to make the photographic story of ‘Kaze-no-denwa'(The wind phone) and visited Otsuchi town, Iwate in Japan. The area were badly affected by Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011. For this project, he used H6D-50c and we asked him about the project ‘Kaze-no-denwa’, and also asked his experience on using H6D-50c.

Otsuchi_0591_sQ: Can you describe about the project?
Wilson: The project revolves around a Japanese retiree, Itaru Sasaki, who lost his cousin very suddenly to cancer back in 2010. He was trying to search for a way in which he could maintain some sort of relationship with his cousin after death and so, quite unconventionally, he decided to build a phone box in his back garden in which he put a disconnected telephone that he would use to speak to his cousin with. He believed that his words were carried out to his cousin by the coastal wind, hence the name Kaze no denwa (The wind phone).

His town was badly hit by the Japan Tsunami in 2011 and in the weeks following the disaster news happened to spread around Japan about his phone box. People started turning up to his garden to use the phone so that they might also have the opportunity to reconnect with the ones they lost in the tragedy.

The story looks into how the people in his town of Otsuchi, while they were making good headway into rebuilding the town itself, had initially neglected the emotional damage caused to themselves and how the phone box has helped to address it.

Otsuchi_0678_sQ: How was the shoot in the Iwate?
Wilson: It was a new kind of challenge basing a shoot around someone who I couldn’t communicate with directly. I had to hire a couple of translators for the time I was there and so my whole relationship with Sasaki-san existed through them. With that said, though I couldn’t communicate with him verbally, I decided to connect with him through his love of gardening. Though I only had four days to shoot, I knew I was only going to get a decent array of photographs if I could gain his trust. As such, I spent half the time gardening with him – chopping wood and helping him to clear out a greenhouse which he hadn’t touched for a few years. I think this helped him to get a sense of who I was and my intentions, and so it became easier for him to feel relaxed with me in his space as the week progressed until he barely noticed the camera in my hands.

As for those that came to visit the phone, this was a challenge since I pretty much had to wait around for people to show up. I was unlucky and didn’t run into anyone using the phone box for the first three days I was there. It was only on the final day that I actually managed to capture people using the phone. I suppose I just had to keep a level head and trust that things would eventually go my way.

Otsuchi_0556_sQ: You chose H6D-50c, the CMOS 50MP medium format digital camera for this project. Can you tell us why you specifically chose the medium format for this project?
Wilson: I knew that this was going to be a more slow-moving shoot than ones I had shot previously. I had time to think about the shots that I was going to take and so I felt that I didn’t need a lighter, more compact 35mm. As such, I decided that I could opt for quality instead. I knew that I was going to want to shoot portraits and landscapes and so medium format becomes the obvious choice.

Q: The experience with the H6D-50c. What did you liked about H6D-50c?
Wilson: The interesting thing about using the camera was how quickly I became familiar with it. It was like using my old camera and lens however with the build quality and image quality of a medium format camera. Of course the difference in quality of the image was noticeable immediately. There was a lot more versatility with regards to the available information in shadows and highlights in postproduction, and of course the size of the sensor allowed for really crisp detail in portraits and landscapes which just aren’t matched by 35mm cameras.

Website for Alexander McBride Wilson is here.

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