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Good Luck and Do Your Best: photographs from suburban Japan

Good Luck and Do Your Best by Laura Lewis and Gold Panda
Good Luck and Do Your Best by Laura Lewis and Gold Panda. Images: Laura Lewis

In 2014, photographer Laura Lewis travelled to Japan with Gold Panda to gather inspiration for his third album, Good Luck and Do Your Best. The pair spent two weeks touring the country and Lewis amassed a huge body of work, documenting unusual interiors, urban spaces and local residents. One of her images appeared on the album’s cover and the series is now featured in a  photobook of the same name.

Designed by Zoe Anspach, Good Luck and Do Your Best contains 122 photographs shot on a range of formats, including 35mm film. There are images of empty car parks, Tokyo subway cars and a wood-panelled room in a ‘love hotel’ as well as people going about their daily lives. Some focus on rich colours and retro decor while others aim to capture cultural quirks and everyday scenes.

Lewis was introduced to Gold Panda after a mutual friend gave him a copy of her debut photobook, People. Places. Things.

“Derwin had some rough ideas for a project, which would eventually become his third album, and asked if I’d like to accompany him on a trip to Japan to take photographs,” she explains. “I really fell in love with Japan – the country and the people – their hard-working demeanour and the ever-present concept of doing one’s best.”

The title of the project is a rough translation of the Japanese phrase ‘gabatte, kudasai’. “[It] came from a Hiroshima taxi driver’s parting words to us,” explains Lewis. “People doing their best and trying hard is one of the underlying themes in a lot of the photography we collated, so a continuation under the same name seemed very apt.”

Gold Panda says he wanted the series to capture things he likes about Japan – one of the few places in the world where he feels at home.

“We didn’t have a set plan [for the project] but rather than find tourist spots or even places off the beaten track, we decided to explore suburbia. Places that might be considered mundane and boring by the people living there,” he says.

Good Luck and Do Your Best by Laura Lewis and Gold Panda
A wood-panelled room in a love hotel
A pylon dwarfs a row of houses in suburban Japan
A pylon dwarfs a row of houses in suburban Japan

Lewis’s images provided inspiration for the musician while he was writing the album back in Chelmsford. “I pinned some images up in my studio and got to work,” he explains. “Happily, a couple of Laura’s photos became the artwork for the album but it became clear that in order to let each photo breathe, we would need a better medium. So that is the way this book came together.”

Describing the photobook, he says it presents “a document of our time in our favourite place. A place that inspired some music and made some memories. Seeing what we saw and how we saw it. Small things, normal things, everyday things that to us, with the time to pause and look in from the outside, showed the most beauty and gave us happiness.”

The cover of Gold Panda's third album, Good Luck and Do Your Best. The image, taken by Lewis, shows a security guard in Kyoto bending down to pick up some rubbish
The cover of Gold Panda’s third album, Good Luck and Do Your Best. The image, taken by Lewis, shows a security guard in Kyoto bending down to pick up rubbish

Good Luck and Do Your Best costs £40. You can order copies here. The album is out now on City Slang.

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