RetroProgressive: Tokyo Story is beautifully bittersweet

These days everyone thinks they’re a photographer. It’s a rare treat to see professional photography that’s more of an art form than a random selection of snaps. This is one of a number of reasons why British photographer Emily Allchurch’s forthcoming exhibition, at Diemar Noble Photograpy from 17th March until 7th May, is a must.

Tokyo Story is Allchurch’s homage to Hiroshige’s last great work, One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (1856-58). In her masterly collection, Allchurch recreates ten of the artist’s exquisite prints, skillfully employing contemporary digital imagery to embrace the spirit of the original compositions.

(Click on the images once to enlarge and twice to see more detail).

The two dimensional nature of ancient woodblock printing is brought to life via the expert addition of modern day reality, with the help of virtual tools from the ‘internet age’. Layer upon layer of detail are subtly blended to reflect stories of unsettling social change. Of course, at the time of Hiroshige’s work, traditional Japan was under threat from Western Imperialism, whereas today Japanese technology permeates the world…

Current day cultural references range from basketballs, beer cans and vending machines to graffiti, logos…and catfish (an indication that Japanese culture, whilst embracing Western products and ideas, still retains its own distinct character). The underlying narrative also conveys deeper concerns over the effects of social transformation – the aging population, homelessness, environmental issues and unemployment. A tramp is seen pulling his cart of belongings, as beer cans float on polluted rivers and banners of commercialism punctuate the overcrowded skyline.

Allchurch is remarkably respectful towards the original work, and details that may seem a little on the quirky side are actually in keeping with the themes raised by Hiroshige: The addition of a rollercoaster to a temple setting, for instance, relates to the fact that temples were formerly places of entertainment, and continue to be a major tourist destination. She also captures the artist’s vibrant visual style and use of ‘bokashi’, the luminous cross-fading effects created through the graduated wiping of the ink on the printing blocks.

Emily’s accomplished portraits of today’s Tokyo serve as a timely update of Japanese art history for future generations.

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About Author Profile: Susan Muncey

Trend consultant Susan Muncey, is Editor of Visuology Magazine. In 2008, she founded online curiosity shop, She writes on style and trends for several blogs, including, and The Dabbler. She previously owned cult West London boutique, Fashion Gallery, one of the first concept stores in the world. Susan graduated in geography from Cambridge University and is also an Associate Member of the CFA Institute. She lives in London with her husband.

5 thoughts on “RetroProgressive: Tokyo Story is beautifully bittersweet

    Toby Ash
    March 5, 2011 at 09:40

    Thanks for this Susan. I love them. I have always been fascinated by Japan after visiting Tokyo a few years back. Will try to visit next time I’m in London.

  2. Worm
    March 5, 2011 at 10:21

    lovely pictures and a great idea!

    March 5, 2011 at 14:11

    Thanks Toby and Worm – I love these unique photo collages too. It would be interesting to see a similar exercise carried out using works of art from other cultures. How about A Rake’s Progress, Brit?

    March 5, 2011 at 18:00

    Love these – stunning post, Susan.

    A Rake’s Progress – done Heat magazine-style.. starring Ashley Cole perhaps?

  5. Gaw
    March 5, 2011 at 18:17

    They look just great and hold your attention. I wonder what Japanese people would have to say about them?

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