There’s something very vulnerable about being asleep, especially being asleep in public. At least, that’s true in the Western world, but photographer William Green found that in Japan, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. So much so that in Tokyo there’s an entire street that seems to be unofficially devoted to snoozy cab drivers, taking 40 winks in their cars.
Naturally, he set about taking pictures of them. “I was in Japan working on a few other projects, and I stumbled upon them while doing a bit of pavement pounding,” he explains. “I came across this one street – it’s not a taxi rank, but there were loads of people asleep. I’ve been to China too, and it seems to be a culture where, unlike the West, you’re allowed to be asleep in public. In the UK that’s only ok if you’re pissed or really knackered.”
Once William had spotted the drivers, he set about shooting them on his 35mm digital camera immediately, returning later on to see if he could get not only permission, but a few better shots. “I found the equivalent of their union rep, and through my non-existent Japanese and his bits of English and a lot of gesticulation I spoke to him and carried on,” says William. “The shots from the first time round actually worked the best, I tried to go back and see if it was better light with a different time of day or sun position but I got it the first time round.”
Shot in the late afternoon, the images show a sweet snapshot of Japanese culture that’s hidden from the usual streets pounded by cabs with drivers that are very much awake. It’s a charming insight into working values and a culture so different from our own.
“I just look for moments and places that work, I suppose it harks back to Cartier-Bresson’s decisive moment, if that doesn’t sound too cheesy,” says William. “I look for things that maybe aren’t in the frame. You never know when you’ll find that private moment on public display.”
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