Photographer Walks Around Kobe at Night to Capture the Moody Atmosphere of the City

Kobe, Japan by Xavier Portela

Photographer Xavier Portela is known for his pink and blue-hued images of cities around the world. His cyberpunk take on urban nights in Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Tokyo aren't only striking for their electric colors, but also for Portela's ability to frame a scene with cinematic style. His latest venture sees him straying from his trademark hues and instead focusing on capturing the atmosphere that makes Kobe, Japan pop.

This wasn't Portela's first venture to Kobe. He made the trip specifically to photograph the city streets. A few years prior he'd stopped in on the city (which happens to be the sixth largest city in Japan) for a few hours, but hadn't brought his camera. Regretting this error, he vowed to come back and document the city and all it had to offer. Though it took a year, Portela made his way back and spent his evenings wandering the streets of Kobe.

By departing from the signature look he uses in his series Glow, Portela immediately sets a different tone for the Kobe series. Each image is a vignette into life in the city. Some people walk the streets, immersed in their music and smartphones, while others grab a drink with friends or enjoy a hot meal. In other images, there is no human presence to be had, simply the quiet glow of Kobe's lanterns and street signs.

Through it all, Portela keeps the same crisp imagery he's known for and allows viewers to enjoy Kobe's cityscape. We feel almost as if we've been pulled into the adventure, accompanying the photographer as he stalks across the city to take his next shot.

“It’s not as pink and purple as my series Glow, but the idea behind the process is the same—manipulate the colors in order to feel the vibrancy and atmosphere of the location,” Portela tells My Modern Met. “It’s about what you remember instead of what you've seen of a place.”

Xavier Portela recent spent several nights photographing Japan's sixth-largest city, Kobe.

Laterns Outside a Restaurant in Kobe, Japan

Street Photography of Japan by Xavier Portela

Kobe, Japan by Xavier Portela

People Walking Down the Street at Night in Kobe, Japan

Kobe, Japan by Xavier Portela

Kobe, Japan by Xavier Portela

His crisp, vibrant photos help tell the story of the city's unique atmosphere.

Kobe, Japan by Xavier Portela

Japan Street Photography

Kobe, Japan by Xavier Portela

Neon Signs in Japan

Street Photography in Japan

Photo of Kobe at Night

Xavier Portela: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Behance

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Xavier Portela.

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Electric Photos Capture the Energetic Buzz of Hong Kong’s Nighttime Neon Streets

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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