Cyberpunk City : Reframing Tokyo As A Futuristic Wonderland

With a background and interests in skateboarding, anime and architecture, this photographer brings both a youthful imagination and an outsider’s eye to an area of the world famous for speculative fiction-worthy landscapes and high-tech cityscapes.



Sam Pritchard‘s interest in architecture evolved alongside his interest in Japanese cities and culture, which in turn helped inspire his recent Phokus Archives. The child of an architect, he grew up seeing the built environment through the lens of a skateboarder and urban explorer in England. Meanwhile, he developed fascination with futuristic cityscapes through (often Japanese) video games and movies, from Sega, Nintendo and Atari to Akira and Ghost in the Shell.



After spending time as an architectural photographer in London, Pritchard moved to Japan to follow up on his childhood fascinations and see what structures are really like in the fabled land of futuristic tech. The results were surprising: “Since living in Japan the reality of day-to-day life isn’t really any more tech or futuristic than it is in any other developed city or country. But in my photography, I try to create the illusion that it is some kind of digital future world that lives up to my childhood expectation of the place.”




Currently living in the mountains west of Tokyo, Pritchard’s trips to the city are well-planned in advance. Once in the area, he scouts for rooftop access via fire escapes to get above the tangle of wires that can crowd a shot from street level. Some of his works are classic urban landscapes with a twist or two in terms of their site, timelapse or post-production techniques, while others highlight textures and patterns in the city’s fabric.

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At university, his work was primarily analog involving a traditional darkroom film-and-printing approach, the negatives scanned in for digital editing. His work today is fully digital: “I now shoot with a Canon 6D full frame SLR camera with Canon lenses and use Photoshop to composite and manipulate the images. I use a tripod and remote control. Each image is manually composited of bracketed exposures. They are effectively HDR images, but their production is not automated. As they have not had a blanket algorithm applied to them, I can retain photo realism. After digital enhancement, this becomes a kind of hyper-photo realism.”



He recently completed a fascinating multimedia interface dubbed the Phokus Archives made in Flash and Photoshop with audio by Reso. This interface is a fitting way to interact with his work, feeling like a futuristic game console but also featuring functional ways to zoom in and browse his archives. His next step will be to assemble a book or exhibition from work already online and otherwise.


This feature originally appeared in Web Urbanist.

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