Taro Moberly, a street and travel photographer based in Kyoto, Japan, shines a light on the stories behind some of his most famous shots for Trope’s Behind the Shot series.
There’s a couple standing on a snowy staircase in line with the lanterns at a Kifune-jinja, or Kifune Shrine. Something I’m drawn to is snowy environments. Having grown up in California in the San Francisco Bay Area, living in the snow was something that was very new to me.
Kyoto itself is not a particularly snowy city. In previous years I think there’s been a lot more snow, but recently it’s been more of a rare occurrence, so being able to capture snowy scenes is a very special thing to manage. I always enjoy going out and finding these really cold and snowy environments.
Most of the photos in this series are taken on the same day, so it goes to show how rare of an occurrence it can be. This particular day was my very first time shooting in the snow in Kyoto. I just remember being in awe of how beautiful it is when you’re seeing a scene that you’ve seen a number of times before, but seeing how different it is when it’s covered in a blanket of snow. It was a very magical moment for me. With this photo in particular, there’s something about a couple together in the snow . . . there’s a feeling of warmth there.
Here there’s a woman walking across the street at a busy intersection, and she’s holding an umbrella to protect herself from the sun. With her other hand she’s holding a phone and she’s looking down at it, maybe texting someone, but at the same time she’s wearing a traditional kimono. It’s a summer version of a kimono called a yukata which is something that’s usually worn at summer festivals.
The thing I like about this photo is that it [shows] the contrast between traditional Japanese culture that you see so much of in Kyoto, and also the modern Japan. She’s dressed very traditionally. Even her shoes and socks are very traditional, but then she’s looking at her phone, walking and texting at the same time. I find that sort of contrast very unique in Japan and in Kyoto.
Even the bag that she’s carrying clashes with the outfit in a way that I think is really interesting. When I first took this photo and was editing it, I actually played with it in black and white. I thought that was interesting because, having this photo in black and white, it could almost look like a timeless photo except for the cell phone and the people in the background.
I naturally tend to edit my photos in a way that the shadows have a blue hue to them. I don’t know why . . . maybe to add a sense of melancholy to my photography and a little bit of curiosity. I've also really enjoyed film photography and having those faded colors. I don’t try to compare my photos to film but I like to think that there are some similarities there.
This is a photo of the floor taken inside a temple where the door slides back and forth. This photo is a little different than a lot of the photos in the book. It’s a close-up shot, and more of a texture and detailed kind of shot.
Something I like about this shot is that it represents the aesthetic that you'll find in Japan. The details in this photo are really important and showcase the Japanese craftsmanship and that aesthetic, and how it really goes down to each individual detail.
This is a tatami floor, which is woven together to make a surface that’s really, really nice to step on. The details are what really make everything stand out here in Japan. If you look at something from far away it’s really beautiful, but then as you get closer you notice these little details that make up the entire thing. This photo illustrates that attention to detail and how even the smallest things can convey some sort of beauty, especially here in Japan. It’s not something I’d usually take, but I think something that I’ve been trying to do more of is focus on the textures and the small details as much as a scene on a busy street.