SIGMA meets SEEKERS vol.6


TALK SESSIONA discussion about photography, with photographers.

My own photography theory.

  • Mikio Hasui x Chikashi Kasai

‘SIGMA presents LIVING WITH PHOTOGRAPHY’ took place at the ‘IMA CONCEPT STORE’ in Roppongi, Tokyo. It was a well-received event with photography exhibited by SIGMA users from various fields. For this special edition of SEEKERS, we have reprinted the transcript of the public talk between photographers Mikio Hasui and Chikashi Kasai.

text : SEIN Editorial Division photo : Kitchen Minoru

Mikio Hasui: For this event, I was told I could have a public talk with my most favorite photographer at the moment, but I have long been a great admirer of Mr. Kasai’s work.

Chikashi Kasai: Thank you very much.

Hasui: This is where I came up with the theme of ‘active photography’. The reason why is in how Kasai sees what he takes, in the physiological sense, it doesn’t feel like a Japanese took them. With the images of people or the streets of Shibuya, it feels like a foreigner took them. I could clearly see the Japaneseness of the people as a race and as a country.

Kasai: I’m told at times I have a ‘foreign viewpoint’ but it’s something I am not conscious of so I don’t know why that is.

Hasui: I really love your images on Instagram of street photography and flowers.

Kasai: Though I basically take photographs every day, I make sure to take flowers, skies and street photography. My eyes latch onto other things when taking the sky, I look down when taking flowers, depending on that, the view is always facing in all directions. I want to be surprised by what I take.

To Surprise Myself

Hasui: Many of Kasai’s photographs appear to have life flowing within. That’s why I think they are real, with warmth, or more the sense that they are alive in front of you. How do you bring that out?

Kasai: That’s something I would like to know as well (laughs). It’s not that I don’t trust what I am taking, but it’s not like I’m taking photos with sure confidence in myself. It could be said that I would take a lot of photographs every day, then when I look back at what I had taken, I surprise myself.

Hasui: Oh, I see.

Kasai: The photographs I take don’t show my perspective. It may be an abstract way of saying this, but I believe I want to have a dialogue with my own photographs. That’s why, with the subject and I, the photograph is the middle-man in a way. I pick out what I like from it, but it may be perhaps something that I wish for something that matches my own ‘physiology’.

Hasui: That’s a wonderful way to say it.

Kasai: Oh no no (laughs). I see my private photos as basically a diary so I don’t think of having to make them a work of art. The day is OK if I get a photo that I would like to show people.

‘Today I’m Alive’.

Hasui: I believe photographs are a memory. I have a poor memory at any rate, so photographs act as my memory. However, I’m not as surefooted as you so I’m unsure if what I’ve taken is any good. My images don’t have the life that yours have. To take an example, the ‘light pattern’ photograph is the pattern the light makes from the blinds in my room in the morning. That kind of pattern is very geometrical and very interesting to me.

Kasai: Photographers certainly do react to light.

Hasui: Oh yes. This is a series on ‘white landscapes’ when I was taking this densely white foggy landscape at Kirigaminetakahara in Nagano Prefecture. As I was trying to capture this landscape, the fog was carried by the wind for just a moment, revealing an incredibly beautiful mountain behind. I felt like shedding a tear when I saw that. I thought to myself if this is the same reaction for everyone, in other words, people lose their way in situations in life, and get gripped by everyday worries.

Kasai: That’s true for all of us.

Hasui: In situations like those where we are lost in the fog and we witness an opening to a beautiful landscape, we get mesmerized by it and want to go towards it. I wondered if that was something that could be expressed in a photograph. In this way, with photographs that have that feeling and theme, I always ask myself what it would become if I followed the same feeling and theme.
That’s why the image of the pattern of light in the bedroom I just showed makes me feel that ‘the light is beautiful this morning. It’s close to saying ‘ I lived today’. The photographs I take with that feeling every day, I’m very happy when I find something that makes my heart skip a beat. Simply put, I believe I’m a photography boy at heart.

Kasai: Really, perhaps, together we are both photography boys at heart.

A photographer’s photograph.

Kasai: Speaking for myself, I don’t have an image I would consider a great work. I don’t know which the best is. It’s the same as when I said I don’t trust myself. What I think is great one day may be different the next day. What I like always changes.

Hasui: I’m the same. First, I can’t choose one. Also what changes my photographs is one more thing, SNS.

Kasai: I had a feeling you wanted to bring up SNS.

Hasui: Though I upload my photographs on Instagram and the like, there are times when I want to quit. However, there are times when I am casually browsing SNS and a photo of mine suddenly appears I do say to me ‘whose photo is this?’

Kasai: I know that feeling.

Hasui: It’s like I take a step back when I upload an image on SNS, or more a sense I released the image to the world. When I look at it a bit from a distance, it’s like a love letter I wrote at night as a child but would hate to read in the morning (laughs). The next day I regret sending it so I undo what I did.

Kasai: You’re quite the sentimental kind Mr. Hasui (laughs), but this probably the way most photographers are who post their own work on SNS or Instagram. I think it frees people.
Since long ago, I’ve had the impulse to show people an image immediately after taking something. That’s possible with Instagram. It’s convenient as a tool to show people your work, nothing more, nothing less.

Hasui: I can look at my photographs kind of objectively when they are posted on SNS. What’s very interesting is that I can look at my photographs, your photographs and other people’s photographs the same way.

Kasai: Also, when glancing at a photograph, the photographs I instantly like are much to my surprise images taken by a proper photographer. I feel a photographer is different. I recognized it was you when I saw your monochrome work. It’s not about skill, but that sense of atmosphere is somewhat different between the average person and a photographer.

Hasui: I think in a way that a photographer is persistent. With my own photographs, I create and destroy, create and destroy, but I can never let it go.
Kasai: Photographers really are the persistent kind.
Hasui: It’s an annoying trait. I want to be smoother and dandy (laughs). Even with my own works now, I’m still lost as to what to do to get that image. When I look at your photos, I always think they are amazing.

Kasai: That’s not true. I’m always lost. Like I said at the beginning, I don’t have sure confidence in myself. Basically photographs aren’t something we create. It’s because there was a beautiful woman that we wanted to take the shot. She isn’t something we created. It can’t be helped to not have confidence in oneself.

Don’t Take Other Than What You Want.

Hasui: There is one more gentleman I would like to introduce. Among the attendees today is Mr. Ani Watanabe. Please come up. (Comes up to the stage). The reason I like Ani’s work is that he’s very good at taking people directly and honestly.

Ani Watanabe: It’s because my personality is honest (laughs). Even though I work as an art director in advertising, more than having a suitable photograph, to have a photograph taken with what the photographer had in mind is a much better image. That’s why I make sure not to think of design at the beginning when I’m in charge of both design and photography. I reckon my photographs aren’t bad when I work on the design after the photographs are done.

Hasui: With your photographs I totally feel there are no unnecessary constraints. As if you take only what you want to take. That feels so good to see.

Watanabe: Anything else is a waste of time.

Hasui: Your portraits always have a black background. Do you always carry that with you?

Watanabe: Yes, a 2m x 0.9m one. All around the world with me.

Hasui: That’s quite eccentric (laughs). I also love a black background and use it for fashion photography, but my background is completely different to yours. Mine is for atmosphere, while yours is to create a distinction between the person and the background. I think it’s wonderful and amazing.

Watanabe: I shoot with the black background no matter what country in the world I’m in, and it becomes the same image however I arrange it. Basically I take people who I think are interesting, so whether it’s France or Italy, I take regardless of surroundings and conditions.

Hasui: That is the mindset of an art director.

Watanabe: I get slightly turned off when it becomes conceptual.

Everyone studies too much.

(A question from an attendee about the key to portrait photography.)

Watanabe: For those in attendance here today that want to learn more about photography, I have something to say, and that is, everyone, don’t study too hard. The idea that you have to take something this way in that situation, or to do something this way, has already been done well by our predecessors. It has been taught so there is no point for a second person to do it. Rather than learn the same way as someone else, it’s better to shoot in a way that doesn’t stress you out. If you don’t shoot the way you feel at home with, there is a chance you wouldn’t continue for long.

Kasai: What I keep in mind the most when I take people is that I make sure to move. From my experience, whether it’s a man or a woman, when they move, their facial expressions change.
But when I ask them to move, their head moves and ruin the image in a way. I move rapidly to counter that. A subject would move if I moved. It isn’t like changing the angle would bring the best out of an image, but in any case, to allow the face to move would do so.

Hasui: I’m the same. However in my case, to use a music analogy, it’s closer to a session. What would be said if it was moved this way. It’s not possible to ask them to be unaware of the camera, maybe. So I’d rather have them be conscious of the camera. Head on.

Watanabe: The relationship changes as you get closer.

Kasai: That’s what it is. The sense of distance between us changes.

Hasui: It’s soon time to finish, so some final words. Photography is always changing. It’s fun because it’s evolving and the period is important. It has to be ‘now’. Photography from the past is wonderful, and that is OK, but I’m of the opinion that what the people of today are taking now is true and the most beautiful. Whether it’s for example trash, the evening sun, erotica, what’s taken has to be beautiful in my eyes or that photograph wouldn’t be beautiful. For myself, I can only take those kinds of images. As for Chikashi’s photos and Ari’s photos, I think they’re incredibly beautiful and they’re amazing photographers which is why I respect them. Thank you very much for coming today.

My favorite photographer SPECIAL

Mikio Hasui’s book of choice

“This is Mars”

The Mars satellite MRO reveals the origins of life

This photobook is compiled of 150 photographs taken with the latest high-resolution camera on board NASA’s Mars observation satellite MRO, showing us exactly what the camera recorded.
“The digital images sent back from the exploration satellite are full of formative beauty and detail, as if they were abstract paintings. There are many things to learn from these photographs which show us — I think it is fair to say — the aesthetic rules of the universe.” (Mikio Hasui)

Chikashi Kasai’s book of choice/small>

‘Myojo’ by Kotori Kawashima

Each single page is exciting

Kotori Kawashima, whose 2011 photobook “Mirai-chan” set new sales records, visited Taiwan for three years to take the photos in this book. There’s a certain nostalgic feeling in the way the boys and girls in his photos look back at the camera. They’re very touching. The book’s bold design, with its B5 format and horizontally overlapping photos, is quite interesting as well. “Myojo” won the 40th Kimura Ihei Award.

Mikio Hasui

Born in Tokyo in 1955. Worked as an art director before becoming a photographer. His work was exhibited as part of the permanent collection of the Bibliothèque nationale de France for 2 consecutive years from 2009. Held his first solo exhibition abroad in Berlin in April 2013.

Chikashi Kasai

Born in Tokyo in 1970. Graduated from Tama Art University. Held his first exhibition in 1996, and published the photo book ‘Tokyo Dance’ and ‘Danse Double’ the following year. Since then has worked in a wide range including advertising, magazines, CD covers, actors and actresses portraits etc..

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