When we look in the mirror, we don’t see our “true” selves, or maybe a better way to put it is that we don’t see our “accurate” selves, but rather a representation of ourselves, horizontally flipped, but it’s close enough to give us an idea of how we look and who we are. But on the other hand, when we look at a photograph of ourselves, maybe a well-made portrait, we see ourselves as the world sees us …and sometimes, even often, the person we see in the photo is not the same person we see in the mirror.

I’ve been lucky to learn through many years of experience that when you make a very intentional portrait of somebody, one that celebrates, exalts, hopefully flatters them, then show it to them, it can sometimes be a really powerful experience not only for them to see, but for you as the photographer to behold, the act of witnessing a living thing looking into a mirror and seeing their reflection for the first time.

More on that later, after I introduce Tomatsu, pictured here, who I encountered hanging out on the streets of Shinjuku with two pals from his work after a short record store and fashion excursion coming from Saitama. The three of them were carrying record store bags and looked quite dope, a posse of sorts, so I approached them with the Tokyo Record Style spiel. Mindful not to take too much of their time, compounded by the fact there were three of them, I kept my impromptu interviews short, and thought to follow up with them each via chat, which I did.

But it was obvious right there by his smile that Tomatsu was a very friendly character who I’d like to know more, and who judging by his Nujabes “Metaphorical Music” CD, and his Midicronica’s 7” “San Francisco”, I guessed he was a fan of Samurai Champloo, the cool and beloved Japanese anime from 2004 that overlays historical Edo-era samurai adventures with Hip-Hop (and to which Nujabes, Fat Jon, and Midicronica all contributed). Tomatsu shared with me that he loves music (hip-hop and “future punk” – did I hear that right?) and fashion and just started collecting records not that long ago and plays them on his Vestax turntable at home (…I wonder if he has one of the cool crazier designs.)

I followed up with Tomatsu via mail for any more details, and he offered really simple but wonderfully rich introduction that really gave me a better sense of who he is, which I’ll translate from Japanese and share with you here:

“My name is Tomatsu! The biggest influence in my life has been my father. I learned a lot about music, fashion, and cars from him. Since I was young, I would search YouTube with my father to discover various artists. The first genre I fell in love with was hip-hop, which I grew fond of during my childhood dance lessons. I often listened to Eminem and The Black Eyed Peas, which led me to explore various international hip-hop artists. If we’re talking about rock, then Nirvana.

“In my teens, I became a fan of BUDDHA BRAND and Nujabes, which sparked my interest in artists’ fashion and various cultures. BUDDHA BRAND and Nujabes are my music heroes, along with Daft Punk and Haruomi Hosono. From there to the present, I’ve been listening to club music, various cloud music, and watching YouTube, which has led me to my current favorite artist, Arlo Parks.

“I study fashion sense by watching international street snaps and artists.

“My hobby is cars. I’ve loved cars since I could remember, and during my student years, I would often draw cars in my notebook. Now, I own a 1964 VW Type 3 Notchback, which I customize myself.”

Wow, THANK YOU, Tomatsu. That was super enlightening and really thoughtful of you to share so much of yourself. I can totally relate to so many things you wrote, like the discovery of cool things to know about growing up (like hip hop) and your niche within them (like dance – my son is crazy for hip-hop and dance too, and we often play old school hip hop at home), and especially your father being a big influence! I too have many cherished memories of working vintage VWs with my father. He and I both had several and I loved working on them with him. Hope to see your 1964 VW Type 3 Notchback someday! Thanks again, Tomatsu!

So before I wrap up, back to this mirror thing.

Long, long ago, late one night, while sipping whiskey at Golden Gai’s degenerate cameraman bar, Kodoji, my original photography partner-in-crime Jim O’Connell said to me during a spirited and slightly slurred conversation …from a place of love… “Brian, I don’t see you in your photographs.” Well, Jim. Just look at this portrait here. Cuz after some 20 years after you said that to me, when I look at the people I photograph, I often see myself, even as if I’m looking in the mirror. Maybe the stories help, but yeah, maybe you were right then, but not anymore. But I still love you for that comment cuz it was (and continues to be) fun to find myself in my photos, like I did here with Tomatsu.

More Tokyo Record Style on the Way…

Midicronica – San Francisco
Label: Lawson Entertainment, Inc. – HR7S271
Format: Vinyl, 7″, 45 RPM, Single, Limited Edition
Country: Japan
Released: Mar 8, 2023
Genre: Electronic, Hip Hop
Style: Breakbeat

Nujabes – Metaphorical Music
Label: Hyde Out Productions – HPD4
Format: CD, Album, Reissue, Digipak
Country: Japan
Released: Jun 15, 2011
Genre: Electronic, Hip Hop, Jazz
Style: Jazzy Hip-Hop, Downtempo, Cool Jazz, Trip Hop, Instrumental

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