Business and economy news is one of the most challenging parts of covering the story in Tokyo.Why? Fashion shows have their beauties, red carpets have their stars, and sporting events have their action, but what is going to catch a reader’s eye and make them do more than glance at our picture on a story about GDP?
In Tokyo we’re trying to make our financial coverage as compelling as other subjects and our approach is to try to have fun with these assignments, and working around the tight access restrictions. What we see is tightly controlled, and even in news conferences we are usually corralled into a small section of the room and forbidden to move. The subdued demeanor and limited variation in clothing (black, navy or gray suits) worn by this country’s business leaders is another challenge. There are no Richard Bransons here. Not even a Bill Gates. We had a Carlos Ghosn, but he isn’t around much anymore.
It’s easy to get beaten down and lose hope when we walk in to shoot photos of the CEO of an industry-leading company only to find the room is lit with dim florescent lights and the only decoration is nicotine-stained curtains. But the great thing about an interview is that unlike a crowded news conference you can set up lights, move around and seize control of the light away from the florescent strips in the ceiling and do some fun strobe work. I like snouts because they’re great for getting rid of the phones, plants, decorations, thermostats, light switches and anything else that clutters up a photo. A snout can be anything that fits over the head of your strobe to limit the spread of the light from it, letting you control where light falls and where it does not.
GDP and other Economic Figures
GDP and other economic figures are broad enough that you could almost shoot anything for these, but at the same time it’s a bit bewildering to try to sum up a country’s economic mood with one frame. I think we’re most successful when our pictures are beautiful and convey a strong mood at the same time, as in the photo below.
In Tokyo there is no stock exchange in the usual sense. There is a building, but inside is mostly computers. The actual trading is being done by people sitting at desks in brokerages. To get people reacting to stocks we shoot on the street and are always on the search for a brokerage or other business that has a sign that gives us the opportunity to show people reacting
Commodities are probably my favorite economics-related story to cover because getting a commodities photo usually means putting on a hardhat, going into a noisy processing plant of some sort, getting oil and coal dust on our clothes, and witnessing beautiful scenes in ugly environments.