KT: How did you get into photography? When/what was your first encounter with photography?
OY: When I was in my second year of junior high school, I was inspired by a Japanese TV drama which was about a news photographer. It looked fun that they could travel all over Japan! For this reason, I decided to be a photographer.
My father bought me a camera. However, I didn’t take many photos at that time because I was on the soccer team. Sometimes, I took pictures of rice paddies, dragonflies and scenery near my house. After graduating from high school, I went to a documentary-oriented photography school in Osaka. Mostly we took snapshots of downtown Osaka in black&white.
KT: Your work is a brilliant mix of portraiture and dream-like practices, ranging from exploring the nature of individuality & self-awareness to uniformly choreographed individuals attempting to explore their identity. On what basis do you select your subjects? How do you decide to get so intimate with your subject?
OY: For my books 100 and 1000 children, I was inspired by my trip to Thailand. Back then I was shooting for a children’s magazine. I had an idea to take pictures of local children with fresh fruits. This idea just popped into my mind. I was not planning to carry forward this idea for the magazine. It was something I just wanted to try. I was not aware where it would take me.
When I returned to Japan, I decided to try the same thing with Japanese children. This time with a more planned approach for 100Children! For the next two and half years, I shot with 3 to 5year old kids. And then I decided to shoot 1000 children because 100 were not enough for me. 1000 is much more powerful than 100. And it inspired me for my ‘Assembly’ series.
When I lined up all of the individual photos together. I realized the impact of a group and how strong it can be. Then I choose to shoot the photos with nature as the background. Because it is simple and the girls could be the main focus.
I decided to shoot with scenery where you could not recognize the specific location in order to encourage the audience to use their imagination while viewing the photos. The strength and beauty as a collective entity stood out more by being in nature. I was attracted to the expressiveness of the group.
KT: In your usual style of photographing, you tend to hide the faces of your subject, allowing yourself to draw out the strength of the of the portrait. What is your fascination with hiding the faces of your subject?
OY: Anonymity of invisible faces makes people use their imagination. Covering individual model’s faces put more focus on the group, not on one or two models.
KT: You have published many very special books – “Sasayama”, “1000 Children”, “Assembly” including recent one being ‘Mizugi”, published by Swedish publisher Libraryman. What do you like about the medium of photography in book format? What is the difference in approach between a Japanese publisher and a European publisher considering you have worked with multiple publishers?
OY: I don’t care about the size of photography in a book format. But non-standard size is more expensive than standard size. When I worked with a Japanese art director, we talk to each other about it. But art-director at Libraryman publishing selected my images himself with a design which was so innovative.
KT: In one of your previous interviews in 2015, you quoted, “I have no idea about Instagram, but I usually use my mobile phone when I go location spotting because it’s convenient.” In 2018, we notice that you are very active on Instagram now where you daily post multiple photos and videos with your followers. What transformed your approach to Instagram as a medium? What are your thoughts as an artist on the use of Instagram like platforms to connect with your audience in the present digital age scenario?
OY: I always hope to improve my photography style. I want to be an aspiring photographer. On Instagram, I can show my new pictures. And then some people write to me with their queries. The process of an anonymous dialogue is very exciting!
KT: With your multi-layered artistic approach, what do you do you want to achieve with your photography in the end?
OY: It is a difficult question. I can’t explain it well but I wish to keep taking photos and showing to others.