Eastern & Oriental Express, As Seen By Keizo Kitajima

Words by Belmond Editors

Eastern & Oriental Express, As Seen By Keizo Kitajima

Step onboard the legendary Eastern & Oriental Express and rediscover the beauty of our mythical train, seen through the lens of renowned Japanese photographer Keizo Kitajima.

In The Joy of Portraits (2009), Keizo Kitajima collated a series of images seized from the 1970s to the noughties. Across two volumes, the cult Japanese photographer captured his subjects facing the camera, in quiet and defiant dialogue with his lens as he roamed cities as far-flung as Koza, Seoul, Berlin or Tokyo.

Kitajima’s work – gritty, experimental, confrontational – has inspired generations of young photographers and pushed the boundaries of Japanese aesthetics. Raw and sometimes blurred, his style perfectly depicts the grit of the underground music scene in Japan or the vibrant energy of Black communities in New York. One of the first photographers to incorporate the are-bure-boke (translating as “rough, blurred and out-of-focus”), Kitajima’s grainy, imperfect photography became increasingly popular in the 1970s.

A novel choice, then, to celebrate the return of the Eastern & Oriental Express to the tracks of Malaysia. Kitajima is known for his candid, urban scenes imbued with a punk-spirit, meaning he could bring out an unseen side of this legend of the rails. A place where mythical memories collide with modern stories, traditional Malaysian embroidery blends with contemporary luxury, and seasoned travelers befriend artistic dreamers.

Travel is a foundation of Kitajima’s work, documenting places and their iconic characters throughout the world. In this As Seen By series, the glamorous travelers onboard the Eastern & Oriental Express stand before the photographer with trademark Kitajima defiance, while the world around them is a blur of Malaysian in motion. Weaving through lush jungle and fragrant rice paddies, from gentle sunrise to blazing sunset, searching for the multi-faceted wonders of Singapore and Malaysia.

While Kitajima focuses on the people onboard, the beguiling allure of our train is his backdrop. Throughout this unique photographic series, Kitajima grasps the aftermath of a mouth-watering culinary experience curated by chef André Chiang, and the buzzing atmosphere in the dining carriages. He seems to capture the gentle breeze of the observation car as lush foliage brushes by, where every view from deck offers a feast for the eyes. With each shot, Kitajima allows the moving majesty of Southeast Asia to gently unfold before our eyes. A whole new portrait, after all.


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