One of the main reasons I enjoy the Higashikawa Photo Festival is that there are always many photography students and recent graudates walking around with their portfolios. It always seems like young women from Osaka have the best photos to show, and this year was no exception. (This can be explained by the quasi tradition of students from Osaka volunteering at Higashikawa. I’m going to try to find ways to look at photos by college students in Tokyo.)
This year I met a number of students of Jun Abe, a street photographer from Osaka who’s attracted some attention online, even without a website. None of the students had websites either, but Yoshiko Fujita did have some digital files of her work. She was kind enough to answer a few questions over email, and I’ve translated the results here.
Please introduce yourself.
Well, I was born in Hiroshima in 1985. I graduated from Kyoto University of Foreign studies in 2009, specializing in French. I graduated from Osaka Visual Arts’ photography program in 2011, and I’m currently a research student there, which means I only have one class a week.
So you’re out of school, in a way. What kind of work are you doing?
I’ve got some part time work at a newspaper scanning old negatives. It’s all related to newspaper articles, so I see photos of high school baseball games, railroads, stuff like that. Every once in a while I see a really nice snapshot, but still, I wouldn’t say I’m influenced by it or anything like that.
Do you have any photography-related goals or plans?
As for a goal, I guess someday I’d like to publish a photobook. For now I’m just going to keep on taking photos. Along with 3 other friends of mine from Osaka Visual Arts, I run a gallery in Osaka called Hatten Gallery. I’ll have a show up there from October 11-20.
What photographers do you often look at?
Martin Parr, Haruko Nakamura and Jun Abe. It’s not photography, but I also like Matisse and Dick Bruna.
Your teacher, Jun Abe, is becoming a bit more famous outside of Japan. How did you come to be his student, and what’s he like?
I met Abe-sensei when I entered school. My first year, he was the teacher assigned to my section’s class, and I signed up for his seminar my second year. Abe-sensei is always thinking of his students, he really cares about that. He’s dedicated to telling you things clearly, which is great. He likes films and manga, which I think might explain why he’s so quick on the draw with his camera—it’s really surprising how fast he is. At any rate, I respect him very much.
What kind of advice has he given you?
He told me that with my photos, I should aim for something between “real” and “airy.” I take a lot of photos of children, and he suggested to me that I aim to take these photos in the same way that any regular person would—you know, the way that their grandmother or grandfather might. He says that, much like discovering the world by looking at it in a unique way, I should try to photograph with the feeling of rescuing the world. I may be a fragile and highly sensitive person, but even so, I can take strong photographs.
Rescuing the world? Wow.
Yeah, I don’t always completely understand what he says. Anyway, I think it might have to do with taking a boring place and making it interesting.