For our latest Footpatrol Discussions we headed back to Tokyo, this time to talk shop with creative duo Alex Grabowski and Shammond Shorter. We venture into their world and watch them collide culture with creativity as they document car culture and fashion harmoniously.
Taking to the streets of Tokyo, the creative duo catch up with 80Rituto and HenatyokoSupra behind the wheels of their Toyota Supra’s as we combine automotive and sneaker anniversaries with the Salomon XT-6 10th anniversary and 30 years of the Toyota Supra (A80).
Footpatrol: Hi guys, we hope you’re both well, thank you for taking the time to chat with us, I know you’re both constantly working on crazy projects, so the time is greatly appreciated. Can you both start by telling us who you guys are and what it is you both do?
Alex Grabowski: My name is Alex Grabowski, born and raised in the US currently living in Tokyo, Japan. I am a photographer and graphic designer, currently working as a creative director at Huxham Creative Studio here in Tokyo. A lot of my work involves collaging automotive culture as the main subject and the environments I capture them in, blending the two inorder to fully grasp a viewer’s attention.
Shammond Shorter: I am Shammond Shorter. I was born in Japan and raised in the United States. I am a photographer and freelance creative. My passion lies in capturing moments in time through the lens of my camera. I strive to immortalise those precious instances that I can look back upon and cherish forever. Photography is not just a profession for me; it’s a way to express my creativity and share my unique perspective with the world. Overall, my goal is to create captivating visual narratives that resonate with viewers and leave a lasting impression. Whether it’s through photography or other creative endeavours, I am dedicated to pursuing my artistic vision and sharing it with the world.
FP: Ok so… Tokyo. How did we end up here? Have you grown up here? Or was this a venture into the unknown, I can imagine it’s a very overwhelming city for first timers?
AG: I initially moved here to study abroad for university in 2015, without any real interest in truly Japanese things. It was definitely a large contrast in comparison to the small town living I was used to growing up. And at first I never really planned on staying after university, I knew that my time in Tokyo was and always is going to be limited based on my work and life here. But for the time being, I feel that I can call this place my home and have no plans for moving back.
SS: Tokyo, holds a special place in my heart. While I didn’t grow up here, my connection to Japan runs deep. My mother is Japanese, and I was actually born in Sendai, a city located a few hours north of Tokyo. However, due to my father’s occupation, I had the opportunity to move around the world during my upbringing, experiencing different cultures and places.
Despite having lived in various locations, Tokyo has undoubtedly become my favorite place to call home. There’s an energy and uniqueness to this city that captivates me. When I returned to Japan in 2019 for what was meant to be a three-month visit, little did I know that Tokyo would leave such a profound impact on me. Somehow, those months turned into four years, and I found myself making Tokyo my permanent residence.
FP: So how did you guys get to know each other?
SS: We first met during my visits to Japan for summer breaks while I was still in high school. Our paths crossed, and we instantly connected. However, it wasn’t until a few years later that we encountered each other again through mutual friends. It was as if no time had passed, and we picked up right where we left off.
Alex has played a significant role in my journey into the world of creativity and photography. Initially, when we first met, I had a simple point-and-shoot camera, with no intentions of pursuing photography as a profession. However, Alex’s passion for photography was infectious. He became a tremendous source of inspiration and provided valuable guidance as I delved further into this artistic realm.
What struck me about Alex was his unwavering dedication to his craft. He is one of those rare individuals who would willingly shoot photography and engage in creative projects without any financial motivations, purely driven by his passion for the art. His genuine love for what he does rubbed off on me, igniting a fire within me to explore and develop my own creative pursuits.
AG: I met Shammond through a mutual friend in University here in Tokyo a few years back. He had been back visiting for vacation in Tokyo at that time while studying at university in the states. I think maybe two years passed after that and we crossed paths again in Shibuya, but we were both shooting a lot more photography that time around… Since then we have both been shooting and pursuing what inspires us most on a daily basis, and he’s become one of my closest friends.
And seeing him level up from a point and shoot to how he approaches photography now is inspiring for anyone who works creatively, one of the greatest photographers I know no matter the subject matter.
FP: What is it about Japan that most intrigues you as a creative?
AG: For me, it’s how vast the automotive culture is. The passion of the people within those close knit communities hits close to home for me. I was raised around automotive cultures and racing in the states, and seeing that I can share that passion with someone on the other side of the world has inspired me to create works that don’t necessarily speak to only the automotive communities.
Trying to share what I am most passionate about with an audience outside of that.
SS: What intrigues me the most about Japan as a creative country is the combination of an endless source of inspiration, the presence of interesting creative people, the nostalgic feeling it evokes, and the passion exhibited by its people for their hobbies.
Moreover, Japan is home to a thriving creative community. The country is known for its innovative design, fashion, art, and entertainment industries, attracting talented individuals from various creative fields.
FP: Alex, i guess most people will be familiar with your editing style, is this something that was trial and error? Or do you have a background in graphic design?
AG: I think a lot of it at the beginning was trial and error, now I have found a kind of rhythm when it comes to creating collages or editing anything really. My background in design started in University, I was obsessed with swiss graphic design. I started seeing how collaging was used to isolate a subject matter, thus leading to me the classic swiss advertisements for Porsche and BMW. I saw how art and automotive could be combined to create something that complemented both and that has stuck with me the most throughout the years.
FP: Sham, tell me about brainwave400? How did this start? and In a world full of film, what separates it from the rest?
SS: Brainwave 400 is a film stock that I co-created with one of my close friends, Gaku. It all started with a simple Instagram page we created called Oats&Brains. However, as the number of available film stocks increased, we realised how much money we were spending on film. That’s when we decided to take matters into our own hands and create our own film stock.
Brainwave 400 is a passion project that we embarked on without any limitations. What sets us apart from other companies in the film industry is that we are not driven by monetary gains. Our primary focus is to build a community of talented photographers and create a sense of family around Brainwave.
We want to encourage and inspire people to go out and shoot, regardless of their level of expertise. Our goal is to show that you don’t have to be a professional to create beautiful images and express your creativity through film photography. What separates Brainwave from the rest is our commitment to fostering a supportive community and pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved with film. We are not only providing a high-quality film stock, but we are also building a platform for photographers to connect, collaborate, and share their work. We want Brainwave to be a catalyst for creative exploration and a place where photographers can find inspiration and support.
Looking ahead, we have some exciting plans for the future of Brainwave. We are constantly working on new ideas and collaborations to further enhance the experience for our community. We encourage everyone to stay tuned and be a part of our journey as we continue to grow and evolve.
FP: What have been some of your favourite projects you’ve worked on? And what have been some of the most challenging shoots you’ve both worked on?
AG: One of my favorite projects I have worked on was recently for a brand called PINKFLAMINGOUSA. I had the best possible team on my end, we worked together to make it all come together smoothly and the work speaks for itself. Was the most stress free experience as a photographer knowing that we had everything covered.
Most challenging experience was working on a project where the conditions were difficult both during the shoot and in post. Shooting at night with video is something that takes skill over time and as one of my first projects alone it took some time to adapt to the conditions at hand.
SS: One of my favorite projects that I have worked on so far was with a brand called HatClub. This project holds a special place in my heart because it was one of my first significant collaborations. What made it even more remarkable was that it was entirely executed by a group of five friends, without any professional equipment or stylist involved.
For this project, I shot everything using a simple point-and-shoot camera. Despite the limitations, we were able to create deliverables that turned out great and exceeded our expectations. It was a testament to the power of creativity and the ability to produce remarkable results with limited resources.
One of the most challenging shoots I have worked on was a project where I had to photograph 20 different locations in Tokyo within a span of just three days. What made it particularly difficult was the fact that the client did not have official permission to shoot at these locations.
To make matters more complex, I decided to ride my bacross Tokyo to navigate between the various locations efficiently. Without official permission, I had to be discreet and find creative ways to capture the essence of each location without drawing too much attention.
FP: As we celebrated the anniversaries of both the Toyota Supra and Salomon XT6, I wanted to ask you both, if YOU! Were a car, what would you be? And if you were a sneaker, what would you be?
AG: A car I would be a Porsche 911R, if I were a sneaker I’d be a Nike SB Blazer Low GT.
SS: If I were a car, I would be a BMW e30 M3, if I were a sneaker I would be Salomon XT Quest 2
FP: What projects are you currently working on together? Or even independently?
SS: Currently, Alex and I have several upcoming shoots planned together, partnering with some exciting brands in the near future. We are thrilled about these collaborations and the creative possibilities they hold.
On an individual level, I am deeply involved in my project, Brainwave400, where I am focusing on further developing and promoting my own film stock. It is a passion project that I am committed to nurturing and expanding.
In addition to my photography pursuits, I am also actively engaged in creating a vibrant basketball community here in Tokyo. I am passionate about the sport and want to bring together like-minded individuals to share the love for basketball and foster a supportive creative environment.
Furthermore, I am venturing into the realm of DJing, planning a few DJ sets and music mixes. Music has always been a significant source of inspiration for me, and I believe exploring this creative outlet will further fuel my artistic endeavours.
AG: Like Shammond stated above we have a lot in store creatively coming up soon this year. Independently I’m working on an ongoing photography series that I would like to release as a full body of work in the near future. A lot of automotive works are included though I am adding some other mediums as well that I am excited to present when the time is ready.
FP: thank you for taking the time to chat with us guys, just wanted to give this time to give any words of wisdom on a career in photography or even just on some do/donts of tokyo! I bet you both know all the spots haha.
AG: Thank you for the opportunity, this experience has been great through and through! My greatest words of wisdom I can give any photographer is that the gear is never really what makes the photo. It doesn’t take the most expensive camera to capture meaningful photographs. I think photography is truly about being in the right place at the right time, and finding that place and time is when everything starts to flow. If you’re ever in Tokyo a lot of car meets happen outside of downtown, but I highly suggest trying to get out here to experience some of the car culture for yourself.
SS: Thank you for the opportunity to chat with you!
When it comes to pursuing a career in photography, it’s important to remember that it should stem from a genuine passion for the art form. While it’s natural to have aspirations of making a living from your photography, it’s crucial to prioritise the love and enjoyment you derive from capturing moments and expressing your creativity. Stay true to your artistic vision and use photography as a means of self-expression rather than solely focusing on monetary gain.
Don’t be afraid to explore new techniques, experiment with different styles, and push the boundaries of your comfort zone. Keep practising, keep learning, and keep refining your craft.
When you find yourself in Tokyo, I highly recommend grabbing a film camera and exploring Shimbashi at night. It’s a fantastic location to capture the energy and essence of the city.
It’s essential to be respectful to the locals and make an effort to learn about the language and culture in Tokyo.
Engaging with the community, showing appreciation for their customs, and demonstrating cultural sensitivity will not only enhance your experience but also foster meaningful connections with the people you encounter along your journey. Thank you again for this opportunity, and we hope our words of wisdom provide some guidance and inspiration.