Christian Brauneck

I’m Chris, a photographer and artist living in Japan. Most of my work centers around the natural world, but I also photograph events, people, and city life.

Originally from the US, I studied art and communication in Canada before moving to Japan in 2018. Since then, I’ve grown my career as a photographer and artist in a beautiful country that’s endlessly fascinating—from its cities to landscapes, its people to insects. 

The Japanese Wild

When I first came to Japan, I lived in Tokyo. I lasted about 6 months before I realized the static was too much for me. Tokyo is exciting, no doubt, but I rarely feel at peace unless I’m closer to nature, away from the density and noise of the city.

I left Tokyo and spent the summer in a village in the Japanese Alps. In the mornings I helped a local farm harvest vegetables, in the afternoons I served coffee at a local cafe. The rest of my time was spent walking and exploring the woods, losing myself in the wild, trying to capture the spirit of something that drew me so strongly to these natural places.

Forest in Nagano, Japan

Outside the cities of Japan, it’s easy to step a few minutes off a road and feel lost in time. First the sights of modernity fade away, then the sounds, and you’re left with nothing but dim, green-blue wilderness, leaves rustling, birds singing, trees whispering. There’s an emptiness that feels more full of life than bustling cities. Deep enough into the wild, it’s unsettling. There are hidden shrines and peaceful waterfalls, and there are wild boars and giant hornets. I feel small against the endless canvas of nature, with nothing but my camera and the clothes on my back.

Found bones, Nagano, Japan

At the end of that first summer, I moved to a mountain village near the coast, on the Izu peninsula. There, the ocean holds a similar timeless power. Waves crash against sharp rocks, their rhythm and strength changing by the hour. The roar of the sea drowns out any signs of civilization, and I’m alone with a beautiful, ancient terror. I want to jump in, but it might mean death.

Sea from Izu Peninsula, Japan

As I write this, I’m temporarily back in Tokyo. I constantly feel the tug of the wild, which I can somewhat calm with a visit to one of Tokyo’s many parks. But I won’t be satisfied until I’m back in the countryside, closer to nature’s timeless emptiness. 

My First Solo Exhibition

In 2021, I was given the fortunate chance to direct and produce my first solo exhibition under my complete control— no galleries, no management, no outside influence. I was given a space and a timeframe to do as I pleased. I printed all the work by myself, produced the promotional materials, and collaborated with other artists to decorate the space. It was one of the toughest challenges I’ve had, and the most rewarding. 

“Dream Stills・ 夢であるもの” 2023 solo exhibition

The theme of the series I showed was on dream states and waking life, particularly with places. I wanted the images to have a dream-like quality with very little post-processing, making the most of the photographic medium and the camera itself. I modified vintage lenses and filters and used varied shutter speeds and camera movements to capture the feeling I wanted — something that represented reality but felt surreal. Dream-like, but vaguely recognizable, and not clearly digital nor clearly analog.

“Dream Still 16”

The show was a success by my standards, and I received a lot of positive feedback. From this point I understood how far I can take photography to express my inner world. 

Studio and Field Gear

I currently work with a Fujifilm X-H2 and a Fujifilm GFX 50s. I print my own work (often large) so having more print size options from these cameras’ high-resolution sensors is valuable. Other than that, I use a range of lenses, from newer Fujifilm X-series lenses to adapted vintage lenses. In the field I always try to keep it minimal and carry one or two prime lenses. Having tons of lens options only gets in the way of shooting, and being stuck with prime lenses forces me to be more creative.

In the studio, one of my favorite setups is a 4x5 Toyo View medium format camera with an adapter for my Fujifilm GFX 50s. This allows me to enjoy the workflow of tethered, digital shooting while having the unique characteristics of medium format lenses and the focusing abilities granted by camera bellows. 

My favorite studio setup: GFX 50S with View Adapter and Toyo View 4x5 bellows

At its most essential, photography is simply image-making. To help in creating the final image, all the tools of the world are at our disposal, so long as the foundation is the camera. I’ve taken apart lenses, broken and painted lens filters, and used various printing methods to explore different ways images can be made. In this increasingly digital world, many creators focus only on digital image manipulation, but there are many more creative options available to us in the analog.

Printing Photographs

A big turning point in my journey as a photographer is when I got serious about printing my own work. At first, like many photographers, I had my work printed at a printing service. This was fulfilling, seeing my work in a larger format, on beautiful paper, tactile, in-person. But once I invested in a printer and began printing myself, I began to take much more care in making my images from the beginning of the photographic process. 

Understanding how different compositions, aspect ratios, and types of paper can completely change the feeling of a photo made me consider my work more carefully and creatively. Not only this, but having the printing process available at any time allowed me to iterate and hone the exact type of print I wanted to make.

Detail of “Dream Still 24” print

It’s easy to forget that the digital medium we’re used to is not the way to view photos—it’s just one of many. Printing opens up an entirely different way of experiencing photographs, and displaying the print as a physical object gives it much more value. I highly recommend all photographers print their work, whether it’s through a print shop or, even better, investing in a printer and printing yourself. 

Feel free to see more of my work at my website, or connect with me via Instagram

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