Meet Sean Lotman

I’m Sean Lotman, a native of Los Angeles living in Kyoto, Japan. I’ve been in Japan about twelve years, having lived in Tokyo for about seven years and in Kyoto since late 2011. Like many of you I came into photography primarily as a consequence of travel. In my late twenties I began traveling extensively for months at a time, especially in India, Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Back then I had not yet decided on a style. I was foremost a writer and so describing my adventures and experiences in prose was much more important than photography. If only I’d had my style at the time! But it wasn’t until 2007-2009 I really settled on an aesthetic by focusing on two cameras, the Diana f+, a plastic toy camera that uses medium format film, and a Nikon fm3a, cross-processing color slide film as negatives to bring out a rich, risky chromatic scheme. I don’t use the Diana f+ as much as I used to and I’ve gone through a few Nikon f cameras since, my most used camera nowadays being a Contax T3, a compact I can slip into my pocket and shoot anywhere.
I’m a very slow shooter and when out walking for two or three hours I might shoot just one or two images (unless I get on a lucky streak). The more I get into photography, the more I realise how incredibly difficult it is to have everything fall in place. Or perhaps it is just a matter of becoming more picky and increasingly perfectionist. In 2013 I began color printing my images in earnest in 8 x 10 and 11 x 14 sizes. I believe in the darkroom is where I really began to understand how photography really works, and I fell in love with the freedom and possibility of creative range. I believe it is in the darkroom process I found my signature. The most wonderful (& challenging) aspect of it is that an image can almost always be better: a little more magenta, a little less yellow, a burn here, a dodge there. Any image I have that I consider a “final print” was the result of hours or days of experimentation. It was in this very slow and deliberate way I put together my first photo book, Sunlanders, which is all about Japan and also not about Japan at all. I created it not as documentary but as dream. I am not an anthropologist; I am more of a sensate somnambulist. When I am shooting I am feeling, not thinking, and sometimes I’m so much in the moment I have no recollection of photographs taken. When I am telling stories with pictures I’m not trying to make sense of the world. Instead I am trying to help you dream.

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