Felipe Romero Beltran captures the people and places of Japan as winner of the 2016 Travel Photography Scholarship

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Felipe Romero Beltran from Colombia,
Winner Photography Scholarship 2016

Felipe's assignment was to photograph the traditional cultures and lanscapes of Japan, including a visit to one of Japan's most eccentric festivals - Hadaka Matsuri aka the "Naked Festival".

Attuning to the rhythm of Japan

The journey began in Tokyo; After a 23 hours flight, I was in the taxi on my way to the hotel in the Asakusa neighborhood, just a few streets from the Sensō-ji temple. There they were Richard (Photographer), Martie (producer) and Alena (guide) ready to begin the adventure.

We immediately started planning the next 12 days with all the cities to go: Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, Yudanaka and some places that I can’t remember now.

The everyday life in Japan used me to its rhythm and each day seemed like weeks to me. We woke up before dawn just to find the best light and at the end of the day we always had time for some drinks to share everything that had happened during the assignment. This time was almost as important as the time of the shooting because I had the opportunity to comment on the ups and downs of the day. Alena was tasked with finding a nice place to eat. In Japan, the dishes we ordered were completely foreign to me: it was the way I discovered a whole culture through food.

Temple

Photographic shock

Richard and I spent every day taking pictures but I must say, it was not quite easy for me because I was not used to seeing and thinking about so many photos in such a short time. It was like a photographic "shock". It was really surprising how Richard spent hours and hours working on the project without rest and also helping me in the shooting and editing. Working with Richard one-on-one was one of the most rewarding experiences of the trip. At the end of the day I ended up knowing that he had fulfilled the task, and fortunately, Martie our producer made sure we were all healthy and well fed.

Felipe and Richard

Post-trip reflections

I am 24 years old and I am finishing an MFA in photography, after studying for more than 6 years in the University I am convinced that this was a money can’t buy learning experience. The experience of each trip is incalculable when you travel to such different culture and even more on this occasion that I had the opportunity to travel with a great team. There are thousands of anecdotes that I would like to tell but it would be endless. I want to take this opportunity to say that it was an incredible trip, I learned a lot as a photographer but even more, I grew up as a human being.

Felipe taking a photo of the lake

View Felipe's photos from Japan