May 18, 2011 1:54 PM EDT

Sohei Noshino, a young Japanese photographer, is an innovative cartographer, visually mapping cities in his ongoing project, Diorama Maps.

The project started when Noshino was a photography student at Osaka University of Arts. Noshino found his calling while studying photography. In one of his courses, an instructor required the class to look at contact prints and select the best shots from among the group.

“Looking at the selected photos of my classmates, I realized I was far more interested in the mass of photographs not selected, than the few that were actually chosen to be displayed. When looking at contact prints, I could see how they approach the objects and I even felt I could see their characters and tastes. I was very fascinated in this and started to think about making my work using contact prints. Also, at that time in university, I felt a kind of contradiction in learning “art” as education, so I often cut classes and went to the top of a department store viewing platform and observed people walking streets.

Now I look back those days: I can see that I wanted to see my trail and where I stood about myself objectively, from a bird’s‐eye point of view—this was very comfortable for me.”

Nishino’s diorama maps serve as an elaborate approach to a walking tour, an outlet where Noshino examines location and absorbs the energy of various cities around the world.

“I think my act of photography is to fix my memory of the cities which I absorb its place with the nature of photograph. “

Nishino takes inspiration from Japanese surveyor/cartographer Inō Tadataka’s motivation and physical. Fascinated by the idea of measuring and mapping the size of the globe, Tadataka began making a precise map of Japan. At age 56, he set out making the map by walking the length of the Japanese island. ”

Following in Tadataka’s footsteps, Nishino walks across selected cities as a means of mapping. His delicate process follows a carefully formulated method: He starts by extensively researching the city he plans to map. Next, he makes appointments with the managers of buildings with strict security to avoid potential problems.

Nishino produces approximately 6000-7000 images while traversing each city. He then develops the film in his studio, printing contact sheets of the images in his personal darkroom. He then cuts each of the contact sheets by hand and arranges thousands of the pieces onto a white board.

In an almost entirely analog process, Nishino does rely on technology to produce the finished image. He photographs the original collage in his studio, shooting nine close-up shots with a digital camera. Finally, he stitches the final product together in Photoshop and makes a LightJet print. From shooting to printing, the process can take up to four months.

Noshino’s work was recently exhibited at the Michael Hoppen Gallery in London. Hoppen, a renowned collector, spoke with TIME about Noshino’s work.

What makes Noshino’s work unique in today’s market?

Sohei makes photographs. His work is based on cartography. He does not plow the usual furrows of photography. I know of no one else working like he does. He also builds pictures that have a very broad appeal, which I like. We see children and adults all relating and being fascinated by the work.

Could you explain your process in selecting the images to exhibit?

We did not really have to curate this show. We put all the cities Sohei had made in two large rooms and the show was born—the selection was not edited. It was an odd show in many ways. As it takes Sohei four months to make each city, we had to wait until we had enough work to show.

What are some tips you would give to young curators and collectors?

One should always buy, collect or select what one likes. However, seeing photographs that one does not like—and understanding why—is just as important as looking at artists one likes. I also recommend looking at paintings as much as possible—I’ve always learned a lot by looking at paintings as well as photography. I know of very few photographers who have ignored painting. Painting is 3,000 years old; photography is an infant art, a mere 174 years old. There’s still a lot to learn.

More of Sohei Nishino’s work is available on his website.

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