I have been providing photography services for ABTA now for the past 12 years. Each year they run a travel convention conference at differing destinations around the world. 2019 was a little special, and I was asked to be their conference photographer at the event in Tokyo, Japan.
AG Studios, St Albans Photographer to travel to Japan
For this particular conference, my connection with ABTA came via their events team Dellar Davies, based in Ware, Hertfordshire. A highly professional and skilled team headed by Elaine Dellar. The whole Dellar Davies team always make me feel welcome on their productions. They not only produce a top notch result for their clients, but they are a wonderful bunch of individuals. I get on really well with the team, so much so that I’m able to enjoy a swift Asahi with them after the hard days’s photography is over.
Three solid days photography in Tokyo
So, three days photography and another five in Tokyo in total, including travel. Luckily, prior to the conference start, I was able to enjoy a couple of days not only adjusting to the +9hrs time difference, but taking in some of this magnificent city’s sights. With the Dellar Davies crew we had a fun day out navigating the Metro underground system, visiting a temple and sampling a traditional Japanese restaurant which was beautiful! Fried chicken with noodles… no, I don't do Sushi!
To be honest, Japan was never on my ‘places I must visit bucket list’, but having visited, I can honestly say I am totally in love with the place.
The Japanese really make this country special. You couldn’t imagine just how respectful and polite people are, always going that extra mile to make you feel welcome. Helpfulness beyond belief!
You wouldn't get that in ASDA!
An example was after I had finished photography for an ABTA Lifeline charity football match. My next assignment was to attend and photograph a very important VIP lunch.
Having left the football ground I had to find a taxi in a rather remote area of Tokyo – I failed to find a taxi rank and not an UBER anywhere near range for my 45 minute journey to the lunch! What should I do?
Starting to panic slightly, I walked for 20 mins down the road wheeling along my camera bag and came across a large supermarket. I wandered into it, straight to a girl working at a till and I used the Google translate app on my iPhone - I spoke into it "could you order me a local taxi please”. The cashier took my phone and listened to the live translation, as her English was zero, and my Japanese was even more zero than zero! She spoke back into it, and translated to me that she had said "yes, no problem".
To my amazement, she left the till, made a call for me, came outside with me where she had organised the pickup and then waited 10 mins with me for the taxi to arrive. We spoke through Google translate whilst waiting which was fun. Then when the taxi arrived she told the driver where I wanted to go, once done she bowed her head to me. I couldn't resist a quick hug to say thanks as that was such a nice gesture and so helpful, she then went back into the supermarket.
In the taxi, I couldn't help thinking to myself 'you wouldn't get that in ASDA!’
I arrived with plenty of time to provide the event photography at the VIP lunch.
As a photographer I wanted to experience and capture the culture
This was not an isolated incident. Everywhere you go, people acknowledge you and bow their head, ready to help. Even pavement roadworks are protected not only by cones and barriers, as you'd expect, but also a person, with what can only be described as a mini lightsaber, ushering you around and warning you.
The same man with a sabre is always present when buses are pulling out, or anywhere that any kind of hazard could occur.
The tube trains run like clockwork, all clean and air conditioned, there is no graffiti or litter anywhere. In fact there are no public bins, because it is the cultural norm to take your rubbish home with you. The taxi drivers are smart, polite and very reasonably priced. The driver opens and closes your door electronically and each taxi has little lace white seat coverings where your head and shoulders rests. Just lovely!
Culturally different but so good to see and experience; you cannot talk on your phone whilst on public transport! Nor can you whilst you walk along the street. It is best to stand in a corner in a still position and you won't get stared at. It is also not acceptable to eat whilst walking along.
These things aren't illegal, you aren’t going to get arrested for them, but it is considered very impolite. Someone described to me how Japanese people feel when they see someone doing any of those things. Imagine being served your cornflakes in the morning in an old urn that used to contain someone's cremated ashes... ewww I hear you cry… well, that's how they feel apparently.
Smoking was pretty unusual. You could smoke indoors with no problem, but you can't smoke outside unless you find a rare smoking sheltered area. Seems the opposite to the UK, especially St Albans.
There were some very strange shops in Tokyo
I witnessed a queue to get into a shop where you paid to go in and stroke dogs.
There were cat cafes, and even an Owl cafe. Certainly not inline with the westernised animal care etiquette that we are used to. Perhaps they have a little to learn on that score.
Conference photography with a difference
Enough about my love for this vast, quirky city, with so much to see and experience.
Enough about the helpful, wonderful Japanese people and their lovely culture.
I had a job to do. Conference and Event Photography.
The conference itself was large, with a rather impressive stage set and an audience of over 500. My job was to photograph each guest speaker and discussion panel on stage.
I had to take extreme care to photograph the branding / logos and sponsor names behind each person, creating the perfect PR photography.
I normally sit on the back press row with all the journalists during conferences, supplying them with pretty instant photographs from each business stage session. Their articles and tweets are able to contain my photography, keeping the news fresh for the worldwide audience.
There were host nation shows, welcome dinners, auctions, football, bowling, an ABTA Lifeline charity cycle ride, and lastly, a Gala dinner. All of which needed capturing photographically.
The three day’s photography are pretty long and pretty full-on! I'd say my hours were 8am to 3am solid, for all three days. The client and UK press required the photographs almost instantly. Therefore the work included post processing of photographs, on-site, during each session.
After the three full day’s photography, it's safe to say I need a well earned rest! So upon landing back in the UK and arriving in St Albans, I welcomed the pre-booked day off that I arrange each time I return from this job. I caught up on an awful lot of sleep!
Do I enjoy it! Of course I do – I absolutely love it!