When did you begin shooting images and why?
I’ve been always particular about “energy” and “moment”.
The reason why I was so into photography is that it’s the medium that freezes 1/125 or 1/whatever seconds of moments, which is usually pretty quick for a human being to “catch” in real life. Yet we have countless of these moments, containing energy and meaning — the essence of life. But again, we always miss that beauty. There is something special in the moment we don’t even recognize, or we just let it flow and go away… Photography gives life on that moment.
As we know, like any art form I guess, sometimes, it is not necessary for the photograph to deliver what the shooter really wanted to deliver. Also photography can make lies a lot. But, that’s why it’s an endlessly entertaining medium for me, and I’m fascinated to catch those moments and energy.
The part I like most about photography is to shoot. Photography can include retouching, post production, and all processes… vs. where actually I’m holding the camera and shooting. I don’t really like the post production part of photography.
When I see the something through the viewfinder of the camera, especially when the subjects are people, sometimes, I see the thing we won’t see in real life. I guess it reveals that person when you have good session. Whatever it is, I’m just excited for this part itself — it’s almost like your magic tool or something.
In my early years of life, i was a professional dancer. As we all know, dance is the art form that is always moving continuously, moving energy — even if it’s not moving, but standing. Say, it’s totally the opposite from freezing a moment. I loved the beauty of dance as a medium, but at the same time, I was also dragged into the opposite thing that was photography.
When we get really good at dancing, well, maybe this could be said about anything… When we’re on the stage, your body, including your skin gets really sensitive for every second, every “atom level” of air. We even feel the weight of the air.
I believe there’s a some kind of “god” or “spirit” or whatever it’s called on every stage. It was a very sacred place for me. Especially when I was standing in the dark in front of the audience, and started moving, it brought some special sensitivity, easily in that setting.
One day, in a performance, there was this specific moment. I felt that moment all super slow motion, and very long. I could totally feel lots of things simultaneously, including energy from the audience, my own breathing, the weight of the air… All of these together really blew me away, and made me realize how many different things and elements of life are going on in such a short moment. From that moment, something changed. I started falling into photography, and ended up stopping dancing.
When I got my first camera, which I believe was maybe around 16-17yrs old, it was simple and small point and shoot camera — Konica big mini — that I even kept shooting with, even after I became a professional photographer. It was a fun camera.
Back then, I was so into photographing peoples’ faces. To fill in the frame or close to fill in the frame. No full body shots, but faces. It was all about the energy of that person. When I remember now, the interesting thing is that I was shooting lots of vibrant color photos back then in Japan. Now, I’m in California surrounded with lots of vibrant colors, and instead, I’m attracted to muted color, which is kinda very Japanese in certain sense.
You work in both color and B&W. Which would you consider yourself to be most passionate about?
I like B&W and its depth, but somehow, I always end up being drawn to colors. I like muted, “betweener” colors that we can’t even describe, or maybe not being able to name. Not much of a liking to very vibrant color.
You live in LA. Does the city inspire your work?
It sounds like a conflict, but I love the sky, crazy sunset and the ray of the sun that is so California, that has lots of the vibrant color side of the palette. Living in LA actually very much spoils me compared to Japan, which has cold winters, and crazy hot and humid summers with lots of rain. Los Angeles definitely makes me wanna shoot color. When I feel like I wanna shoot B&W, that’s most likely a very specific occasion or subject matter.
What is your advice to younger photographers?
Keep flicking whatever excites you.
Which photographers inspire you in particular?
Too many!!! I mean.. as long as it’s WOW-ed me… and there’s lots and lots of “wow” photography out there… I feel like if I list up names, I will eliminate lots of photographers that have really inspired me, and lists goes long. So…
Describe your relationship with your work.
There’s always moments of life everywhere. In the last 3 years, “life” has been very much my main key word, not only in photography but overall in general. Also: the definition of “life” could be anything, but my key word relates to “the moment of LIFE.”
I even don’t know the clear answer to what the purpose of this life is, but that’s what I’m constantly trying to figure out all the time. Then the “impermanence” theme is such a depressing one, when I connect it to this “life” theme. But… it’s also the fact that nothing is forever, and that’s also life.
I feel like i’m just photo documenting a slice of these moments of life, for any subject in front of my lens. I’m not the type of photographer who creates from scratch to make the whole scene and concept most of time. I like to find the moment from what’s going on in front of me, and telling the story. I like raw and real moments.
I always feel — especially when I photograph people — it is the one time, the one and only live session, exchanging energy with that subject through the tool called camera.
“Live” means there will never be the same moment with the same energy in those circumstances: temperature, places, mood, music, etc. And there’s always chemistry among people; it causes different emotional and phycological effects when we spend time together. When I have a camera, it makes it even more complicated — it adds a different element of chemistry also…
It is the only one specialized, customized, live session — there’s no way to make the same thing happen again as long as we are human beings. In that sense, it is very “live” all the time. Even if the subject is grumpy, say, that’s also the real moment of that person’s life, and I feel it still has meaning to photograph that.
Every session is different, and I love that spontaneous and unexpected live session. I LOVE to shoot people because of that. Not only that, I love to meet the new people, or going to the places I wouldn’t have gone were I not a photographer. It’s always a different culture, based on the subject, and it gives me a lot of inspiration. And I really enjoy having a little time with my subjects, even it’s only 10 minutes of our lives.
I love to photograph people in their own environment because I do think every inch of that space is also the portrait of that person, an element of that person’s life — culture and all. I also love to see environmental portraits because every little thing at the corners of the photograph fascinates me, makes me think about that person’s life. Like the sock on the grass in the images of Long Boarder, Alex Knost.
When I photograph an environmental portrait, yes I will move around some stuff, and it’s sometimes very carefully placed (not that sock though), by using what we get in that moment and in these places. So in that sense, it’s not “raw” anymore, but I like doing that also in the last couple of years.
What are you working on right now?
1. New one: “Dogs.” It was started by one of my client’s suggestions and kind of forced in good way, but I started shooting dogs and their owners. Since I got my own dogs in my life now, it’s always natural to enjoy the special connection between dog and human. I feel like there will be another series that i’ll build in time. First, I wasn’t sure how I wanted photograph dogs, or dogs and people. It could have been a straight portrait, but when I tried and actually started shooting, I just didn’t feel it — it was missing something.
So I totally decided to let go, and started shooting them kind of documentary style. It was a way to capture, again, their moments of life, with a very spontaneous approach. Then it started working for me. I got a couple of great shots already that make me excited for this series.
It’s not easy to photograph, especially somebody’s dogs in the environmental situation that includes lights. It is very challenging in a way I barely have control over, but I’m enjoying that great part of personal projects where we can test and try new things out.. and feel like this new project gives some different aspect or approach.
Another fun part of this project is I get the chance to know people who love their dogs, and their dogs with their story behind.
2. Long term, on-going: “The Artist” series I have this series called “The Artist,” that is basically a photo document / essay of each artist. I guess the final pieces are amazing, but I also love the “process”. It’s pretty much all about “process”: the moment that something coming down from wherever it is from, to their art pieces… I’m fascinated to catch and witness that moment. It’ll be a long term personal project, although currently, due to my working schedule, I’m having a hard time dedicating a certain amount of time that I want to spend for this project. So i’m taking a break from this project, but when the timing is right, I will get back to it anytime.
3. Another long term, on-going project: 4×5 photographs I own old 4×5 large format camera. When I get the chance to photograph certain people that make me feel like I want to photograph with this camera, ( yes, there’s a certain thing with this camera) I try to photograph B&W 4×5. IF the light and color are amazing, sometimes I do color.
And I love to photograph around with my iPhone! I consider the iPhone to be the 21st century’s holga camera. My “drift” series is all shot by iPhone.
Compared with a pro camera, there’re lots of flaws on the iPhone to shoot the perfect shot, but because of that, when I get that moment of luck, that makes me happy also. (like Coachella shot #10-Drift in “gallery” folder) Such a challenge.
Also, somehow, I’m not really good at shooting landscapes or places with my pro camera but do well with iPhone. I know it’s just an excuse to rely on the “iPhone” effect (I’m not talking about “effects” of filters, but as a medium), but I don’t know why I like the landscapes taken by iPhone better. And when I photograph these with my iPhone, I like to make it look a bit odd.
Originally from Tokyo, Japan, I’m a freelance photographer who now calls Los Angeles my home. I enjoy cruising in my sidecar scooter with my large & lovely dogs, Buddy & Gizmo when I go on errands. Love to eat except Shrimp and Crab. Love to swim. Love to go for a walk with my dogs. Love Documentary Movies.