Photographer Xavier Portela is known for capturing the energy of cities at night. Focusing on the neon-soaked streets of vibrant urban centers, Portela's Glow series is a surreal look at life in the city. And now, after Tokyo and Kobe, Portela is back in Japan. This time, he's ventured to Kyoto. Considered the cultural heart of Japan, the former capital is known for its wealth of temples and shrines. But, as Portela's photos demonstrate, the city is also distinctly modern.
In Portela's photographs, the streets of the city glow with paper lanterns and neon signs. Because, while Kyoto isn't as built up as Tokyo, it is still a thriving metropolis. Between the ancient shrines and monuments exists a bustling city full of life. It's a city that Portela has visited twice and one that so enchanted him that a visit that was supposed to last just a few days transformed into two weeks.
The photographer's affection for the city is clear in how he also takes care to capture the men and women that call Kyoto home. Whether eating a bowl of noodles or riding a bike, these people bring the city to life and make it a special place that is much more than a tourist destination.
“You need to take time to appreciate the real value of Kyoto mainly because the best parts are hidden,” Portela writes. “When you arrive in the ultra-modern train station, you are just seeing the tip of the iceberg; you'll have to move further around and outside the center city to really discover all the best places. I don't think I will ever have enough time in Kyoto.”
Though it took him several years, Portela finally finished Kyoto Glow. It's a beautiful tribute to the city, which is one of the cities Portela misses the most. He's counting the days until he'll be able to visit again, stating that Kyoto is “one of those places where you will feel home even if you are very far from it.”