“I’m searching for people who aren’t already shaped, corrupted or even broken by the world. Young people. In one way, this is the closest I can get to the human spirit.”
You are mainly working with the youth, high schoolers, even children. Why is that?
I like to think that there is a certain kind of purity captured in my pictures. I work in natural settings and I’m searching for people who aren’t already shaped, corrupted or even broken by the world. Young people. In one way, this is the closest I can get to the human spirit.
How do you approach people that you want to photograph?
I do interviews. It’s difficult to find models in Japan, especially since most of the people I shoot are middle or high school students. I usually rent a van or an RV and take the group on a one-day-trip, meaning the pictures have to be taken only within a couple of hours. There are locations that I keep going back to, since they can have something different to offer, new to explore every time.
I always draw sketches of the compositions beforehand, but things can change on set without a warning. I may imagine a scene and kind of expect a moment to happen, but at the end of the day, the pictures I take are more about documenting reality. You can’t exclude the human factor. Sometimes there is no other way forward but to abandon a plan and improvise. There’ve been occasions when I panicked because I felt like I was losing the image I had in my head. I had to learn how to let go of my ideas and let them evolve their own ways instead of trying to correct them all the time.
What is your most precious memory of the making of the Assembly series?
I had two separate shooting days on the seaside with a group of students. For one image, they were standing on the rocks when suddenly a big wave swept over them. First I got really scared, but then I saw them laughing, having fun, really enjoying the moment. That was a special, joyful afternoon that gave me reassurance.
What do you feel when thinking about the kids that you photographed growing up?
Sometimes change takes more than the effort of one individual. Sometimes, people need to think and work together as an ensemble to reach their goals. I think the experience of creating this series, which feels so alien yet so personal at the same time, can teach us a very good lesson on how to be a part of something without giving up on ourselves. And I think understanding what anonymity means is the first step toward stepping out of it.