Despite all the work on the Yangon Architectural Guide, I managed to stick to a fairly regular posting schedule on my long-term Tumblr project. Time to look at some of the stats and features of the site.
I often felt that my academic interest in the period was rather abstract in nature, and that economic history wasn’t giving me much of a visual context.
Walking through Tokyo during my stay there from 2012-13, I became fascinated by buildings from this period and often looked up how they and their immediate surroundings looked when they were built.
I started to post several images a day in September 2013. They usually depict an aspect of life in Japan between 1945 and 1975. They are mostly photographs, sometimes illustrations or maps, rarely videos. Out of this developed the passion (obsession?) to create a timeline of images from this period.
As of now I have posted almost 2,000 images, about 2-3 are added each day. I usually pick out a few hours in the month and use Tumblr’s scheduling function to ensure a steady trickle of new material. I have almost 3,000 followers and get the occasional fan mail, which is obviously great.
The most rewarding feature of the blog has become “tag surfing”. Prominent years like 1964 (the Tokyo Olympics) or 1970 (the Osaka Expo) are particularly extensive, easily featuring more than 100 images each. Images from 1945 stand in almost unbelievable contrast to 1975 just 30 years later, when most of the economic miracle had run its course.
The photos range from overview aerials to the most minute details of life. Many are impersonal, while others are touching for the close-up view of people they allow. Friends of mine from Japan say that they particularly enjoy the seemingly endless scrolling through the dynamically loading page.
Location tags are very useful, too: here, the transformation can be analyzed using some fix points. This works well with the Tokyo Tower from whose top many photos have been taken (and later been posted online). Major station areas such as Shibuya and Shinjuku are also worthwhile case studies. The famous Shibuya Crossing especially holds a special place in many people’s hearts.
Perhaps most interesting, yet also still incomplete due to inconsistent tagging, are the thematic tags. Pollution, metabolism (or try Kenzo Tange), protests, export, slum or shinkansen are only some of them. Collectively they show the potential of using this as a database to visually map some of the most important themes from post-war Japan.
For the next months, I have planned a retagging exercise and perhaps some fiddling with the template.