• UO Interviews: Yoshinori Mizutani

    Relative to artists in the US, there's a very refreshing nature to Yoshinori Mizutani's approach on his work. There's no pretension, there's no elitism or shyness, there's no artificial humility—Mizutani knows who he is and how he feels. Introduced to photography only a few years ago while working at a vintage photobook store and discovering Robert Frank's popular works, Mizutani has since worked on his photography in a very real, tangible way. A lot of his popularity and praise can be traced back to his submissions to Foam Magazine and different photography awards around Japan, and Mizutani isn't shy about this. "It's the most efficient way for me to make progress as a photographer," Mizutani said through a translator when I met with him at the IMA Gallery Concept Store in Tokyo, IMA being the Roppongi-based gallery that now represents him.

    Carrying around a large, heavy Canon DSLR with an even heavier lens attached to it, Mizutani isn't shy about creating new work either. "I bring my camera everywhere and I try to take as many photos as possible, so I have the most amount of photos to make selects from," he said, displaying a quality-by-means-of-quantity mentality towards photography. I've seen Mizutani's work floating around the internet before (it isn't hard to find other press about his work or his most recent book, Tokyo Parrots), and listening to the way that he looks at being an artist is also fascinating, so I took a walk with Yoshinori and probed him with a few more questions about himself and his work to get a better idea of the way he viewed art and his own participation with it.
    Story and photos by Amardeep S.

    Photo courtesy of artist

    At what age and in what context were you initially introduced to photography? Why do you think it stuck with you?
    I started photography in 2010 when I came across 'The Americans' by Robert Frank. Before then, I was not interested in photography at all. Inspired by the book, I purchased a second hand film camera and started taking photographs with it. As I took more pictures, I became fascinated with it and found photography as my source of joy and curiosity.

    Photo courtesy of artist

    Do you call yourself a photographer? Was there a specific moment when you mentally made the change from just being a person that takes photos to being a photographer?
    I started to call myself a photographer relatively recently when I won international awards and received commissions, which made my surrounding environment as an artist change a lot. It felt like I was given a place within the world of photography and socially approved to call myself a photographer.

    What is your creative process like? Is there anything you have to do or feel in order to create your work?
    I try to take as many photographs as possible, and to achieve quality by quantity. Sometimes a concept becomes clearer as I follow my intuitions and keep taking more and more photographs. Other times, I discover themes for my work within my everyday life. Once the theme is determined, I shape a body of work that would go along with it. I never leave home without my camera.

    Photos courtesy of artist

    It's always interesting for me to learn about an artist's creative inspirations, and look at the correlation between an artist's work and the work of other artists they admire. Who are some of your favorite artists and why, both photographers and otherwise?
    I am constantly thinking about photography, and want to get inspired by every aspect of my life. I also received influence from other artists including those of the New Color Photography, especially William Eggleston. I look at a lot of photographers and photographs on Flickr and Tumblr these days, and I also admire the Japanese abstract painter Nui Sano. 

    Photo courtesy of artist

    Your latest book, TOKYO PARROTS, which explores the fascination and unsettling feelings you had with these wild parakeets that shouldn't even be in Tokyo, seems to have been very well received. Is there anything about that work in particular that made you want to present it in book form? What are your feelings towards photo-books as a whole?
    Thank you. When I completed Tokyo Parrots, I immediately thought that I should make this series into a photobook. I wanted to present the images together as a group and a photobook was the best way to do so. Nowadays, it is common to display framed photographs in Japan but traditionally people looked at photographs compiled in albums. I am also used to looking at photographs in book format and enjoy turning over the pages with my hands. Whenever I have a new series printed, I bound the images to see what they look like.

    Do you have anything in your mind that you'd definitely like to accomplish / do / create in 2015?
    My goal for 2015 is simply to create good works.

    Check out more of Yoshinori's work on his website.