Hiroshi Yamauchi Osaka, Japan
Born 1974 in Osaka, Japan, I studied creative writing and international relations before shifting my interest to photography. After Ohio University’s photojournalism program, I started my career at Anchorage Daily News in Anchorage, Alaska, as a photography intern, followed by other internships with local newspapers in several different states.
Since 2006, I have been a freelance photographer based in Osaka, Japan, specializing in reportage on cultures, social issues and lifestyles.
Hiroshi Yamauchi was chosen by photographer Yutaro Yamaguchi
Laatikkomo’s interview with Hiroshi Yamauchi October 18th, 2015.
L: Where are you from? Or what cities, and/or countries have you lived in – what places have influenced you?
HY: I was born and raised in Osaka, Japan, where I currently reside. After graduating from a high school in Osaka, I’ve spent almost a decade in the United States studying and working. I lived in rural Ohio where I attended Ohio University, big cities like Chicago and New York and somewhat unusual place like Anchorage, Alaska. Places that had influence on me are those of former colonial capitals in Asia, like Shanghai, Saigon and Kolkata as well as in South America like Buenos Aires. I guess I’m attracted to places that have histories made of mixed values, like Asia and the West, or New World and the West.
L: What is your first memory of photography?
HY: My first memory of photography…would be from assignments for my very first photography class in the School of Visual Communication in Ohio University. It was for the very basics; loading film properly, metering light, paying attention to focus etc. The assignments were shot on transparencies, and I was using my father’s old Pentax K-1000. I never forget the excitement I felt when I sawn one of the very first exposures I made for a class assignment. It was a photo of a streetlight on one rainy night. It was magical.
L: Your images have a glossy fell to them, where people are frozen in poses as if they were magazine posters. Do you communicate with the subjects of your images? And how does language (or the lack of one when working in different countries) affect your work?
HY: I developed a habit throughout my photographic life that makes me want more in a scene, in another words I’d like to fill a frame with information. Layers, others call it. If I sense something is in a process to reach its peak, whether it’s a relation between lights and shadows or unarranged choreography among anonymous pedestrians on a street, I position myself on a spot where I assume will best capture what I hope would be a scene full of information, and usually meter lights and pre-focus on some stationary things in my viewfinder so all I have to do is lift my camera at eye level and click a shutter or two when it happens. I have to kind of dance around not to get bumped off the position I try to secure because more often than not I wait for the moment in the middle of a busy street, a market or a park. I’ve become better at it over the years. And when I do that in foreign countries, locals usually give me a glance that silently utters “What the **** is this foreign guy doing?” I guess I can get what I get because I don’t communicate with my subjects.
L: Colour and geometric line play a strong role in your work. Are you consciously looking for specific compositions or do they form in your images through a more unconscious level, through years of skilled labour?
HY: Because I have the tendency to look for a moment when a scene reveals multi-layered information and because photographic recording is to transform a three-dimensional scene to a two-dimensional image, it helps me to have colour separation and/or geometric patterns in a frame that sort of work as grids. Lights and shadows, straight lines and curves, squares and circles…they all work as grids that give me an anatomy of a scene and help place elements of the scene.
L: As a documentary/street photographer from before the current hype-era of street photography, how do you see the future of street photography now that most everyone on the street has a camera? Do you see a new trend(s) emerging?
HY: Generally speaking, I think more is better in most means of expressions. To have more photographers is better for the sake of photography as more musicians for the music. There had been many photographers before me, there are many with me now and there certainly will be many, if not much more, in the future. Photography is a very young medium if you compare it to other visual media. I think it’s still in the adolescent phase. Floods of images are indeed overwhelming in the Internet universe, but growing number of consumed images shouldn’t always be treated as a negative force that degrades dignity or quality of photographic practice. What is important is the fact that bigger denominator almost always justifies the qualities of surviving numerator. Remember, pens and papers have been around for millennial but the world has known only a very few finest writers. In photography, I think we will be constantly surprised by new ideas, new formats, new subject matters and new ways of presentations in years to come.
L: How has your experience and studies in the field of political science and international relations affected what and how you photograph?
HY: Political science and international relations deal with images a lot. Images of political leaders, enemies, rivals and faceless nameless mass have been used for and against any given political agendas. An image of anything that is strong enough to represent a nation, an ideology or an era can mean one thing in one place while it means perfectly opposite thing in another. Especially having taken a course that explored and examined methods and processes of creating “images of enemy” by an authority, I personally think using iconic images or something that can at least represent or suggest anything iconic should be done carefully in photography, whether it’s journalism, art or commercial.
L: Could you list 5 (or more) words that you were thinking about when you made this work (shown in Laatikkomo)?
HY: Disorder, on-the-move, spontaneous, simultaneous and poignant.
Thank you so much Hiroshi!