The vibrant cities of Japan are among the favorite playgrounds of street photographers, especially when it comes to nighttime photowalks. As with most cities, Japanese metropolises show a different side at night. Leipzig-based photographer Christian Kneise takes it a notch further by re-imagining three of the most popular Japanese cities in “Neon Noir.”
If you’re looking for an effective way to see and show familiar locations in a different way, this bright and colorful series will surely inspire you.
Channeling Japan’s cyberpunk vibes
For “Neon Noir,” Kneise prowled the streets of Tokyo, Nagoya and Kyoto at night to capture both the quiet and frenetic scenes of these popular locations. By shooting from different vantage points, he was also able to include some of Japan’s most iconic elements, such as neon signs, arcade centers and vending machines.
To give these cityscapes a futuristic vibe, he rendered his snaps in neon colors reminiscent of the iconic cyberpunk film “Blade Runner.” It’s not at all surprising since the bustling streets and urban backdrops of Tokyo is one of the inspirations for the cyberpunk genre.
I’m a big fan of using colors to alter or create different moods and narratives, whatever the genre. So, I especially like how the simple change in color palette during the editing process can breathe new life into new places, as Kneise did effectively in this series.
On seeing neon
The so-called neon aesthetic has actually become one of the big visual trends in the last five years or so, including street photography. YouTubers like Brandon Woelfel have popularized it especially for street portraits, but there are actually many street photographers who I’ve seen experimenting with this vibrant look as well.
For projects like “Neon Noir” in particular, I can see how it allows travel and street photographers to experiment with a futuristic vibe when portraying city scenes. The results are still eye-catching and popular, as this series by Kneise from last year proves.
As I mentioned above, it’s easy to see how the neon aesthetic works really well for cities that evoke the cyberpunk genre. It may not work for every city, but I think it’s still something worth trying out. Play around with different color schemes. Focus on a specific subject in your city. Re-imagine your neighborhood haunts in an alternate cyberpunk universe. Add characters to your frames to tell a visual story. Find a way to make this style yours!
All photos by Christian Kneise. Used with Creative Commons permission.