The Photographs of Stewart Wachs

This is the second in an occasional series of profiles of Kyoto-based photographers. Each photographer will choose five of their favorite pictures from around Kyoto and tell us a little about what those pictures mean to them. Last  week we featured Kyoto Journal‘s founder editor John Einarsen. This week’s photographer is KJ‘s associate editor Stewart Wachs. Stewart says…

Photography is my way of slowing down enough to utterly forget myself. When this occurs, pictures seem to offer themselves — a landscape, a building, a window or door, a face, a creature, a sky or a stone; anything imbued with spirit can beckon the lens and trigger my finger on the shutter. The photos that I take pale by comparison.

Back around ‘93, while my wife and I sat talking with Japanese friends in their rural Kyoto home, our daughter was playing outside. The sun was starting to set when all at once three silhouettes appeared on the shoji playing rock-scissors-paper, jan-ken-pon. That’s our girl in the middle.


In the garden of the Heian Shrine, I was setting up a shot of a blossoming cherry across the pond but forgot to tighten the tripod’s tilt handle. When I let go of the camera, downward it drooped, pointing to what you see here.


I was drifting through the Kamishichiken district of Kyoto one evening this year when this noren seemed to be waving hello to passersby.

On the grounds of Nijo Castle, set into a white plaster wall in an inconspicuous place, stands this sensuous door. It first charmed me years ago, and last November I finally got out of my own way long enough for its portrait to emerge.

Just before leaving Taizo-in Temple the night of Kyoto Journal’s launch party for issue 70, “Kyoto Lives,” this window came into view; I had no inkling that anyone was inside until after framing the shot.

Photograph of Stewart Wachs by Robert Joseph Best

Stewart Wachs came to Kyoto from California’s Bay Area in 1984. His photographs have been shown in galleries and published in magazines, newspapers and websites, including a site of his own. Stewart is a writer and associate editor/social media meister of Kyoto Journal. He also enjoys his work as a professor at Kyoto University of Foreign Studies.

Kyoto Journal #74 “The Silk Roads” is now available at the following retail storesPrototype record & Cafe Barbatica. Alternatively, you can ORDER your copy at feedback@kyotojournal.org (send name, address, card info) or SUBSCRIBE to KJ via http://www.kyotojournal.org/subscriptions.html “SILK ROADS”.
PRICES: Japan ¥1,500 • US $15 • Canada $15 • EU €10 • Australia $20 • Hong Kong $85 • Korea 20,000KRW.

You can preview the contents at the following links: one, two, three, and four.

Related: The Photographs of John Einarsen

2 responses to “The Photographs of Stewart Wachs

  1. I remember that beautiful janken picture on Kyoto Journal. Great shot. One among many.

  2. Great shots I didn’t know yet, apart from that cover that saved us t the last moment… I like the way you point at chance and surprises or accidents popping up at the “decisive moment” to propell the images to their own unique quality.
    Something at the heart of any photography, and probably any kind of art, isn’t it ?

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