TALK
Masato Kanazawa (Shiseido Creative Division, Photographer)×Naoki Ishikawa (Photographer)

The Future of Photography Envisaged by a Travel Photographer and an Advertising Photographer

The world of today, flooded with countless photos and images derived from them on platforms like Instagram and Flickr, can be described as a revolutionary time, comparable to the first half of the 19th century when photography was born. While new technologies and value systems are appearing one after another, silver halide film and analog photo techniques are gradually yielding their roles and leaving this world. In a time of such generational change, what is the meaning of photographs?

From this talk between Masato Kanazawa, active as a photographer in Shiseido's Creative Division, and Naoki Ishikawa who travels and records the lives of the people around the world, we consider the breadth of photography, and its future destination.

Masato Kanazawa
Masato Kanazawa
Born in Tokyo in 1967, he graduated from the Department of Photography, Tokyo Institute of Polytechnics, Junior College Department, in 1988. In the same year, he joined the Advertising and Design Department at Shiseido Company, Limited, and is currently affiliated with the company's Creative Division. He is involved in taking publicity photographs for Shiseido, capturing many of our brands, including MAJOLICA MAJORCA, MA CHERIE, Ag+, UNO, and HAKU, as well as model calendars and other projects.
Portfolio website
Naoki Ishikawa
Naoki Ishikawa
Born in 1977 in Tokyo, he completed his doctorate at the Graduate School of Fine Arts of Tokyo University of the Arts. His works NEW DIMENSION (AKAAKA) and POLAR (Little More) won the Newcomer's Award of the Photographic Society of Japan and the Kodansha Publication Culture Award for Photography, and CORONA (Seidosha) won the Domon Ken Award. He has written numerous books, including Saigo no Bokenka (The Last Adventurer) (Shueisha), which received the Kaiko Takeshi Non-fiction Award. His most recent works include the photography collection Svalbard (SUPER LABO) and the essay "Kyokuhoku e/To the Far North" (Mainichi Shimbun Publishing). "Capturing the Map of Light on this Planet," a large-scale solo exhibition of his works is to be held at the Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art from September 8. This exhibition is also scheduled to travel to the Tokyo Opera City Gallery (Hatsudai, Tokyo) in January 2019.

Mr. Ishikawa has an "observer's" stance, which young people today relate to (Kanazawa)

Avsökning series

Portraits series

Work by Ishikawa exhibited in "Photo City Exhibition - William Klein and Photographers Living in the 22nd Century"

--
Mr. Kanazawa, what impression do you have of Mr. Ishikawa?
Kanazawa
I was able to see Mr. Ishikawa's solo exhibition ("Naoki Ishikawa Capturing the Map of Light on this Planet") held in the Contemporary Art Gallery in Art Tower Mito in 2016, and I thought that the photos really gave me a sense of our current era. I am about 10 years older than Mr. Ishikawa, and if I ask the young assistants and designers I work with to give me the name of a photographer that appeals to the younger generation, a fair number of them tell me, "Ishikawa."
Ishikawa
No way. I am not young at all. I am already 40 (laughs).
--
When it comes to photos for Shiseido, the main ones are photographs of things, where you take pictures of products, or beauty-type photos, where you take pictures of women wearing make-up. On the other hand, Mr. Ishikawa's photography style is in contrast to this, as he goes out and travels. It's surprising that people in Shiseido are interested in that kind of style.
Kanazawa
Maybe it's because they're not manufactured. I think that Mr. Ishikawa works with a focus on anthropology and ethnology, and that's more realistic than creating something from zero in the studio. Having that "observer's" stance that captures things objectively is something that young people today relate to in some way. Thanks to the Internet, we are flooded with a lot of different information from outside, and I think that the younger generation today are excellent observers who look at that information and choose and compare bits of it.
Ishikawa
It's true that I am not the type of photographer to push forward my own subjectivity. I take and present photos according to my reactions, as objectively as possible, so to speak. Do you take a lot of photos in studios, Mr. Kanazawa?
Kanazawa
My main work is studio-based. But doing that alone does not satisfy me, so sometimes I present my own work too.
--
Today, you've brought a collection of your work, Mr. Kanazawa.
Kanazawa
Yes. It's a series called "Avsökning," which is a Swedish word that means "scanning." I photographed flowers and nudes, and revealed each individual form by exposing them to one of those laser pointers you use in meetings. Nowadays, when everything is digitized, what we see may also be digitized. I expressed that image using a technique similar to scanning.
--
You take a lot of pictures with flowers and people as your subjects in your normal job, too, don't you?
Kanazawa
I do. Humans and flowers are motifs familiar to me. And in the "Portraits" series, I turned falling leaves sideways, rethinking my targets from a perspective we do not normally see.
Ishikawa
Do you do exhibitions as well?
Kanazawa
Yes, last year I unexpectedly had four, and I got quite tired (wry smile).
Ishikawa
Exhibitions need a reasonable amount of energy, so four would have been tough.
Kanazawa
Mr. Ishikawa, you exhibited some works in the group exhibition at 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT in Roppongi this year ("William Klein and Photographers Living in the 22nd Century"). There was a photo I was really intrigued by.
Ishikawa
One of mine? Uh, which one?
Kanazawa
There was a photo of a truck, wasn't there?
Ishikawa
Ah, the one I took sideways on. A run-down truck with a picture of a polar bear on the door.
Kanazawa
I felt that all the other photos had been taken from an observer's perspective, but that one alone gave me a feeling of nostalgia. I got the impression that your imaginations were included in the photo, like, "I wonder what kind of person drove it?" and "What kind of places did it visit?"
Ishikawa
You're the first person to notice that photograph. I think I took that photo in the same way as the others, but that's an interesting thing to point out. I took it for the simple reason that I thought that a lone polar bear pictured on the door of a truck that had seen a lot of use was appealing. I imagined that lots of manufacturing and construction work had been done via that truck in an attempt to somehow form a city in the polar regions of the Arctic.

Probably, I am not expected to produce "typical advertising photography" (Ishikawa)

Kanazawa
Have you done any work with advertisement?
Ishikawa
Just three times. I took photos of Hikari Mitsushima and her fellow cast members for leaflets for a theater production, and also did the pictures for a catalogue for Kutsushitaya, a hosiery brand popular among women.
Kanazawa
When you did those jobs, were your feelings and energy different from when you take photos of your normal subjects?
Ishikawa
On a normal trip, I click my shutter when my body reacts in surprise, and when I took the pictures of the models, I had that same feeling. At any rate, it is rare for me to have the opportunity to photograph people in a studio, so there were definitely different surprises.

Unlike my normal work, you have to meet someone else's expectations when doing advertisement work. I think that advertising photography means pleasing the client by going above and beyond what was requested. Considering that advertising photographers work every day with that kind of pressure, I feel that they are really incredible. I could not do it. The people who give me work usually contact me after they have had an understanding of me, so probably, I am not expected to produce "typical advertising photography."

Because of that, even if I did feel a little pressure, I decided to basically do what I always do. Thanks to that, I was not as uneasy or worried much. But there were a lot of people behind me when I was taking the photos, and I was not so fond of them looking at me as I was working (wry smile).
Kanazawa
I am already used to that, so I do not feel that kind of pressure, but what I pay attention to is bringing a bit of entertainment to the shooting site. Since last year, I've been involved in volunteering activities to support cancer patients, and continuing a project where I arrange for a temporary studio at the venue of a cancer forum to take portrait photos of patients and make them into posters.
Ishikawa
So, you're capturing people who are not pro models?
Kanazawa
That is right. There is a sense of tension between the photographer and the photographed, isn't there? It is fine to take photos in silence in a shoot with pro models, but the majority of these people have had few chances to have their photo taken by a professional photographer in a studio. Therefore, when they do, some people become really tense.

So, I try to play the role of what the public imagines a photographer to be. I liven things up by excessively saying, 'That's great!' and use a high-spec camera.
Ishikawa
Oh, that is why you have that red Hasselblad. Is that a limited color? I have never seen it.
Kanazawa
By piling up those kind of factors, you can manage to get normal people in a good mood similar to that of a pro model. That kind of entertainment factor is important.
Ishikawa
That is something that I am lacking. I take a picture when I think it is good, and I have never thought of entertainment. Even if the person in front of me is making a subtle expression, I will take the photo thinking, "That will do," because that is the real scene at that time.
Kanazawa
If you consider the role of an advertising photographer as taking beautiful pictures according to a specific objective, then the mission I contribute to is providing photographs that accurately capture the target object in line with an aim. In that sense, there is no spontaneity in my work. In the case of my cancer patient support photographs, my goal is to draw out better smiles, and I will build up and establish the necessary techniques and know-how to achieve that goal.

One significant characteristic of advertising photos is that they originate from the receiver. "Yes, yes that is it" - you have to satisfy them with the photos you have taken, and if the photographer and viewer are not in agreement, they will not justify it as advertisement.
Ishikawa
Even the same photograph can have very different origins and objectives, and that is the breadth of photography, isn't it?
Kanazawa
But you seem to have some inevitability in your work, too, when you think, "This moment!" which I think is a particular inevitability that comes from experience.
Ishikawa
I think I certainly do. But at the very moment, a bird might suddenly sweep into frame from somewhere, or a sheet of newspaper might come flying in on the wind - there are also things that happen outside of my objectives. But I find those coincidences interesting. So even though there is inevitability, that doesn't preclude chance entering the scene. That is the way I take my photos.

In "Ryusei no Shima (Island of Shooting Stars)", an exhibition of Naoki Ishikawa's photography at Shinjuku THE GALLERY

Kanazawa's favorite camera (Hasselblad 503CW)

Naoki Ishikawa's favorite camera (PLAUBEL Makina 670)

I always have this feeling, "Whatever happens, there is nothing I can do about it." (Ishikawa)

Shiseido's Beauty Cake "Loved by the Sun" poster (1966)

Shiseido's MG5 "Age of Men, Age of MG5" poster (1968)

--
Incidentally, Mr. Ishikawa, where have your recent travels taken you?
Ishikawa
Until just 10 days ago I was in Nepal. In the Himalayas. Kangchenjunga, the third tallest mountain in the world, stands there. I want to climb it someday, so I went to check it out in advance. It is a pretty harsh environment.

In places over 4,000 meters above sea level, very few people live, and there is nothing but rocks, snow and glacier. I was eating a bean soup called dal bhat for every meal for around 30 meals. Yesterday I had meat in Tokyo for the first time in a while and felt that it was really delicious. I lost a lot of weight, and I couldn't stop coughing, which was terrible... In the Himalayas, fine rock crystals get stuck in your throat causing persistent coughing, which can then develop into the condition called "Himalayan cough."
Kanazawa
That is a tough mountain. Were you conscious of life and death?
Ishikawa
This time I was just checking it out, so it was easier, but the real expedition will be even more raw. Falling rocks in the size of ping-pong balls will penetrate a helmet, and it is impossible to even prepare to avoid it - if you get hit, you are hit. I am always aware of a feeling that says, "Whatever happens, there is nothing I can do about it." Even if I take precautions and climb before the dawn in hard, packed snow, if there is an avalanche, there's an avalanche. If I encounter anything like that, there is nothing to be done.

Mr. Kanazawa, have you ever thought about traveling and taking photos, rather than working in a studio?
Kanazawa
Since the situation in publicity is tough right now, overseas locations for my work have been reduced. The original impetus for my starting photography was advertising photos. When I was a student in the 1980s, advertising photography had a really good economic climate, and I began thinking that feeding myself by taking photos would mean taking advertising photos. Therefore, on a relatively straight path, I aimed for Shiseido, and that has remained the case until today.
Ishikawa
How many photographers are employees of Shiseido?
Kanazawa
There are now two of us.
Ishikawa
Only two?! That is unexpected.
Kanazawa
Next year it will have been 100 years since Shiseido's first photographer joined the company, but there have only been 13 of us in total since 1919. That is less than the number of company presidents.
Ishikawa
Wow!
Kanazawa
It is because we carry such a long history that I feel we have to continue on. But the form of publicity nowadays has changed a huge amount. It is not just so-called advertising (adverts and promotional materials), it has also gained a digital and social role, and what people want from photographers will probably also change in the future. I think we are in that transition period.
--
Is there any kind of "Shiseido-ism" that has developed over those 100 years?
Kanazawa
The basics are down to personal expression, but it is probably that "photograph the woman beautifully" is common to us all. That is not simply taking a photograph of a person. In terms of product photos, too, we always have an awareness that we are creating a photograph with the function of prompting the act of "makeup," and we are photographing it as "an object that embraces women's aspirations and dreams."

It is the same when taking photos of models and celebrities - we define photographs as something to express a culture surrounding makeup and the way of life of people involved in this culture. That means focusing on some kind of future ahead where the makeup is used, and you could say that this understanding of female images and products is unique to Shiseido.
--
If, as you say, Shiseido is linked to the creation of culture itself, then it is true that the role of the photographer will change in the future.
Kanazawa
As a company we are keeping an eye on digital content as a whole and will continue to transmit those contents. In the next fiscal year, we will open a specialized studio focusing on this direction.

Finally, Mr. Ishikawa, may I ask you a question?
Ishikawa
Yes?
Kanazawa
What do you think the future of photography will be?
Ishikawa
That is a difficult question (laughs). Hmm...Firstly, we are definitely moving in the direction of getting rid of film 100%. I suppose the skills involved in creating prints will remain as an art. Meanwhile, more and more photos are becoming an everyday thing through smartphones and SNS. I do not know if this is a bright future or not, but I think that prints made from the films that I create will become similar to curios.

The reason I think photos are interesting is because they can stop time. I want to focus and record through a camera what I have seen in front of me. I will persistently take photos, believing that they will definitely be significant in 50 or 100 years' time.
Kanazawa
A little while ago, the photographer Nick Knight (a British photographer, born in 1958) said, "Photography is dead." I understand that he was pointing out the technical changes, at the same time as saying that the concept of "photography" will continue whether we use cameras or not. As Knight's so-called "image making" becomes mainstream, we consider what it means to be effective. That is the ideas and philosophy of the creator, and amid such a huge concept the function and role of photography is likely to be swallowed up. I hope to continue my life considering what we can do in these circumstances.
Ishikawa
In the era when Charles Darwin was traveling the world by ship, photographic technology had yet to be invented, and he recorded the details of his expeditions with accompanying illustrators. Later, photographers were employed rather than drawing illustrations. This is the same as mountain climbing; now, we take a photograph at the peak as proof we have reached the summit, but in the past people verbally described the scenery they saw from the summit and drew pictures, and that was accepted as proof. I think the role and function of media change depending on the era.

INFORMATION

  • "Naoki Ishikawa Capturing the Map of Light on this Planet"
    Saturday September 8, 2018 to Sunday November 4, 2018, 10:00 to 18:00 (last entry at 17:30)
    Venue: Annex, Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art, Fukuoka
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