Tokyo Underground: Celebrating the Beauty of Imperfection

As the team was shooting, an interesting group of men passed by. “They had a cool, hip-hop, skater swagger about them,” recalls James Mould, who says that hairdresser Masa Honda had them join in. “The images [that resulted] were powerful and raw. You can’t plan stuff like that.”

The Japanese concept known as wabi-sabi finds beauty in imperfection, simplicity in solitude and timelessness in transience, revering authenticity above all else. This tradition encourages us to simultaneously enjoy and lament the impermanence of life through embracing austerity, patina, aging and true reality.

This philosophy was the inspiration behind a rogue photo shoot, Inside Out, on the streets of Tokyo. Hairbrained craft hairdresser and videographer James Mould joined art director Takayuki Shibata, hairdresser Masa Honda, photographer Takashi Murata and makeup artist Nao Yoshida as they created edgy and raw looks for model Yuan. The shoot was unpermitted—and therefore illegal—which added to its energy and authenticity. “We were shooting on the move,” says Mould. “It definitely felt like we were going rogue.”

“It was a super-inspiring day. The efficiency and creative processes were great!” says Mould. Nevertheless, no amount of planning could prepare for the beauty of being on location. “That’s where the real magic happened,” he says.

While the team didn’t linger long in any one place, that doesn’t mean they skimped on style—hair was sculpted and resculpted to perfection at each location. But in the end, Inside Out was about creating a great, moving work of art. “Art should tap into your senses and provoke emotion,” Mould muses. “But art isn’t just the finished product; it’s the process crafted by an individual that expresses and tells a story.”

The spontaneity of the shoot underscores the wabi-sabi aesthetic of finding beauty in imperfection and authenticity.