HESO Magazine

Photography, Music, Film, Hitchhiking, Craft Beer – Cultural Pugilist

Tag: HESO Summer Interview Series 2012

Tim & Puma Mimi and the apple

The Stone Collection Of Tim & Puma Mimi

Tim & Puma Mimi and the apple

Tim & Puma Mimi and the apple

As the sparse synthesizer and video games breaks beep to life on the first track of The Stone Collection Of Tim & Puma Mimi we hear a Puma Mimi ask a question, “Acchi, kocchi, acchi, kocchi, dochi ni ikou?” (Here, there, here, there, which way to go?). It is unclear if she’s asking us or herself. And with the range of musical genres represented on the album (hip hop, dance, electronic, J-pop, crossover jazz, fruit), this might be emblematic of the album itself. At its heart, it’s a fun and accessible (even if you don’t speak Japanese) musical metaphor for modern Tokyo living.

Much as the album defies straightforward definition, so too does how Tim and Puma Mimi met (“We met at the Santa Klaus party in the Netherlands in the end of 2003.”), and eventually came to live and make music in Tokyo.

In places it is a throwback album of beautiful voicework and analog instruments, yet its modern synthesizers, canned drumbeats and use of fruit as instrument (what?!) belie the way it was made–not in the studio, but in Puma Mimi’s small 1DK (One Dining Kitchen Apartment) flat in Shinagawa, Tokyo.

HESO: How do you make music? digitally, analoguely, with fresh produce or all of the above?

Tim: All of them, we don’t have rules, how to produce, it just has to bring the song to a cool shape. The cucumber is electronic, the flute acoustic, mostly I use the micro Korg, but sometimes Fender Rhodes or Mini Moog, or even plug-ins, but I don’t like midi.

More than just the multi-instrumentalist genre-mashing, the way the songs are made reflects on the private/personal relationship between life and music, recording and touring, loving and playing. Having met and seen a bright future, both musically and romantically, they soon had to part because of the technicalities of bureaucratic life–visas, work, nationality. But long distance relationshipping didn’t stop them from making music. The Skype concert series soon sprang to life, with Tim touring clubs Europe and skype-casting Mimi singing live from her kitchen in Tokyo. This, plus their growing number of singles, created a following and got them into electro-festivals across Europe. But it wasn’t enough.

HESO: You wrote and recorded your album in Mimi’s tiny Tokyo apartment, but where are you now?

Tim: Now we live in Zurich, bit bigger apartment, but still all instruments in bedroom. It’s in Kreis 4, the melting pot of underground Zurich (yes that exists too in Zurich, beside being a super-expensive and clean old town famed for the Bahnhofstrasse). Sometimes we rent a music-room, but it’s often underground and humid.

Tim & Puma Mimi Live at Womb in Tokyo

Tim & Puma Mimi Live at Womb in Tokyo

HESO: Tim, what is your impression of Japan? Puma Mimi, Switzerland?

Tim: Japan? First I was disappointed, I had a picture of crazy colorful people, but 90% of people in Tokyo wear black suits. But after two weeks you start to understand, why they don’t look into your eyes, that they have different lines to queue for next train. After two months you start to love it, but I’m not sure if I will ever feel at home there.

Mimi: I like Zürich very much because I can get both city and nature life at once. I grew up in the northern part of Japan where I enjoyed nature, but as a teenager, it was boring. No concert places, no exhibitions. Even the last cinema in the town went bankrupt, and turned to be a Karaoke house (yeah! of course we had Karaoke!). Then I went to Tokyo to study when I was 19. Tokyo was so exciting, creative fashion, fast information, music, arts and so on…. I enjoyed it a lot. But sometimes, I couldn’t breathe. I missed nature, fresh air, fresh water, quietness, the sky. Compared to Tokyo, Zürich is very small, but there are many things going on in this “little big city”. Lake water is very clean. And I can get to deep nature in 10 min by train. That’s perfect combination for me. Besides Zürich, I like mountain area in Ticino, old stone houses and sharp mountains. It’s so nice to walk there.

HESO: If your beats and words are inspired by the cramped and crowded Tokyo lifestyle, what happens when you have all of the Alps from which to take inspiration?

Tim: I would love to do calm, maybe even spiritual music, but always when I try it, I think that doesn’t work, audience would fall asleep, or just start talking. I would like to do live music for yoga or something similar.

Mimi:I try to write about something around me. So Alps could be a good inspiration too. But the problem is that the nature is very powerful. So, when I go to mountains, I become wordless. It takes more time to write about the nature than about concrete jungle… at least, for me.

Tim & Puma Mimi on the Phone by David Thayer 2011

Tim & Puma Mimi on the Phone by David Thayer 2011

On the lenitive “Tamago” the album takes a turn from the fun and playfully amateurish upbeat Electro-J-pop to a more serious and contemplative nature. It is not a coincidence that this comes halfway through the Stone Collection. From this point on, especially on “Green Blood Circulation”, even when the music returns to previous form, the songs retain a depth and a progressive movement toward some far-off point that we can’t quite see, but know is out there.

HESO: How do you come up with ideas for songs? Albums? Videos? Live performances? Who does what?

Tim: I produce the songs. Mimi writes texts and melody lines. Musically it’s just trial and error, sometimes it works, sometimes doesn’t. I give the recordings over to Mimi. In a bigger view I would say: The ideas grow in our heads and sometimes we can pick up the fruits. Inspirations are: fleamarkets, walking in cities and mountains, watching concerts, movies, reading books.

Mimi: About lyrics: I try to express my inner feeling by describing daily objects around me. For example, I came up with lines for “Giacometti” when I saw the poster of Giacometti hanging in the room where we were recording. And the text begins with “To talk to Giacometti, I don’t need words….”. Something like that. Melody line: it’s all depends on Tim’s music. When Tim gives me an idea of song, then I listen to it many times and try to jam (hum) with lyrics I already have.

HESO: The album has dropped. What happens next?

Tim: In a week we visit China for 3 weeks, travelling with a bunch of musicians and do live music to silent movies. Later this Year I want to build a do-it yourself-kit of my Fruitilyzer, that people can build their own Fruitilyzer and electrify new fruits and vegetables.

HESO: Can you write a very short song-poem about your favorite food?

Mimi: I wrote this quite long ago, and try to make a song out of it, but Tim never liked my melody lines with these lyrics. So it is still un-published. Tim doesn’t like Tomato Sauce either, by the way.

トマトソース / Tomato sauce
飛び散る飛び散る/ It splashes all over
白いTシャツ / on my white T-shirts
赤いシミ/ and leaves red stains
食べるのやめるか/ Should I stop eating
トマトソース/ Tomato sauce?

いやいやそんな/ Noway, it’s
トマトソース / Tomato sauce!
だってだいすき / I love
トマトソース / Tomato sauce
ファッションは /Fashion has no chance against
食欲に敵わない / appetite

HESO: I love Tomato Sauce. Thanks guys. Check out their site for more fun with fruits and beats.

Interview with Tim & Puma Mimi is part of HESO Magazine’s ongoing (late) Summer Interview Series, where we interview photographers, musicians and artists about their work and what they think about the world of 2012. We may ask them similar questions, but the answers have been anything but the same old canned responses. Check out the entire series here.

© Billy Gomez

Modern Loops Interview with Photographer Billy Gomez

© Billy Gomez

© Billy Gomez

Third-party marketing content, Wikipedia-plagiarized articles, hateful commentary, Fox News–it’s easy to be negative about the internet. It’s also impossible to deny its positive impact. Whole photographic communities have formed due to the largesse of Flickr and Instagram, to name a few. Yet the net that spreads wide also has large holes. Many talented, young artists experimenting with technologies both old and new fall through the cracks due to the sheer numbers of Neue Artistes simultaneously populating the aether. Lucky then I managed to hear about Billy Gomez through a still occasionally Flickr grapevine. Spooling through his photostream one quickly tires of the limitations of the smallish flat screen device on which the women and men and children exist in the small places in between conversations of light and shadow dialogue. Caught between wanting to see more and wishing to seem them as large prints in a gallery setting, I wondered, Who is this mystery man capturing poetic loops of the visible spectrum, who is Billy Gomez? Best to let him answer for himself.

Billy: I’m originally from Los Angeles, although I’ve been in Seoul for the last six years. Came out here to teach. The plan was to do it for a few years and then head back. Six years later…and going back is still nothing more than a plan. I didn’t expect to see and experience what I did. The isolation and anonymity kind of allowed me to re-invent myself creatively. If I wasn’t teaching, I was in the lab experimenting…still am to be honest.

HESO: Talking about “The Plan”…they never do go the way we plan them, do they? When did you first pick up a camera?

Billy: I think I picked one up a long time ago, but I never held it long enough to form a vision, or develop a voice, or think about what I wanted to do or accomplish with it. I would just shoot a few rolls here and there. I was around talented people who were doing amazing work though, Aloysious and Danny Dougherty. Seeing them grow as photographers and artists instilled a degree of what a work ethic would consist of…it was definitely a reference when I came to Korea and began to bury myself in my little creative endeavors.

HESO: Your work is like a cross section from a very distinct portrait artist which crosses traditional boundaries into street photography. How did you get into photography?

Billy: I just started taking pictures of people. Nothing more. This was at the end of 2007. Around the same time I discovered Flickr. So I would go out all day and take pictures…then see what all these other people were doing around the world. Comparing what I had to what was going on in all these other places, kind of gave me a reference for what worked and what didn’t. So strange to become interested in a kind of photography and have access to all these communities and people, that you’ve never been to or met, but sharing mine and seeing theirs, was really instrumental. Flickr definitely had something special for a while there.

HESO: That was exactly like our photo crew in Tokyo. We all met through Flickr. Now we are all lifelong friends. Seeing what “all these other people were doing around the world” let’s us understand and relate better to our own. Does the medium affect what you do? Do you prefer analog to digital photography or vice versa. Or is it not important? Explain.

Billy: I could care less. It’s a tired argument. The only thing that matters is the music. The instrument you use is an afterthought. Being productive is paramount, plain and simple. Shoot a shit-load of whatever medium or format you choose…and be happy. I’ve said this before, but it’s funny how the militant advocates on either side of the argument all have the same thing in common…their work tends to always be less than mediocre.

© Billy Gomez

© Billy Gomez

HESO: Militancy has that affect on people. What technology can you leave behind? Alternatively what can you not do without?

Billy: I make music with a drum machine that’s almost 25 years old. Definitely can’t do without that. Interestingly, I just got an iPhone about a month and a half ago and I think I thought of it more as a phone purchase, as opposed to being a camera purchase. Good lord what a mistake that was…I have been shooting with it a lot as of late and it’s changing the way I work and think entirely. I’ve been playing with a handful of apps as well. I definitely saw the need for an iPad after trying to edit with those apps on the iPhone’s tiny screen. Man, I don’t know, I am incredibly late to the party but I am really enjoying the workflow these two devices afford you. The more I use them, the more I learn, and the more excited I get about the possibilities. Having only used them for the last month and a half, I could definitely live without them… but it would be sure be a shame.

HESO: You get up in the morning, pick up your camera, where are you going?

Billy: To work (laughs). Sad to say, I rarely ever get up with the sole purpose of taking pictures at that time and it’s definitely something I should change. I’m definitely a morning person, but I just end up tinkering with other things at that hour. However, I will say that when I went home to Los Angeles for the first time after having gotten into photography, I had a newfound appreciation for the light there. I was much more inspired to get up and take advantage of it when I was visiting. It’s definitely something I think a lot about too…about going back to L.A. to do a ton of street work. It would be a great challenge, the thought of what I could produce with that kind of light available essentially all year round, excites the hell out of me.

The light is a lot less unforgiving in Korea. During parts of the spring, fall, and summer it can be interesting. But for the most part, air pollution and intense weather patterns keep it so scrambled and inconsistent. Waking up to golden sunlight is not a common thing here, though we’ve actually seen a little of it this past week…conveniently coupled with 100 degree heat and humidity. Most of the pictures I take are while commuting to and from work. I’ll do a walk here and there on the weekend, but I have to say that there’s definitely something different in the way people look and act at that time. During the week, the pinch is on, you know…the weight of the world is in those eyes and on those shoulders. That same emotion just doesn’t seem as frequent on the weekends.

© Billy Gomez

© Billy Gomez

HESO: Some of your photographs seem like stills from a film. Is this intentional? Do you like film? What particular genres? Favorites?

Billy: That’s a very nice compliment. And yes, I think films have had a huge influence on the type of photography I do. I’d be lying if I said otherwise. Watching La Double Vie de Veronique by Krzysztof Kieślowski was the first time I wanted to know the directors name when the film was finished. I looked for everything I could find of his at the video store and library and then I started ordering his films off of ebay because most of them were impossible to get otherwise. Wong Kar-Wai is another director I definitely connected with before I ever started taking pictures. The slow motion, the lighting, the color, it was all pretty goddamn hypnotic. The key component in both of the aforementioned is how they both told a story without anyone saying anything. Go figure.

HESO: The technical portion aside, what do you look for in shooting a photograph of a stranger? What grabs you and shouts at you to, TAKE ME!”?

Billy: Interesting faces, interesting light–the same thing everyone else seeks out, right? And the two either arrive at the same time or I end up waiting for one or the other. Changing the subject abruptly, I really admire people who are able to capture scenes, as opposed to portraits. It’s something I really want to work hard on. These nameless ghosts though, they kind of haunt me…I can go out with the intention of wanting to capture scenes, and then a certain person will just glow in a crowd, and then the scenes go right out the door and I’m doing the same thing I always do. Patience must have something to do with those scenes, I suppose. I’m a work in progress.

HESO: We all are. Who are your favorite photographers?

Billy: To tell you truth, I don’t even know many photographers…and it’s nothing I’m proud of, or anything like that. I think I’ve gotten more inspiration from my family, Aloysious Dougherty and Daniel Dougherty, than I have from any of the so-called masters. But there were a couple of instances where certain work found me. One of them was the work of Sebastião Salgado. Like Kieslowski, it was the first time I saw a picture in a magazine and wanted to know who took it. Not long after seeing that picture, I went to the library and checked out all his books. Taking an interest in him lead me to War Photographer, the documentary on James Nachtwey. That kind of photography is mind boggling to me and I have to say, I think I have more of an appreciation for it than any other form of photography.

HESO: Where are you now and what direction are you moving in?

Billy: I’m in Seoul and in the time I’ve gone through these questions and answered them, it has dawned on me that a change of some sort is imminent. I have had an amazing time in Korea. It has changed my life forever. But seeing more of the world is a must for me. I feel like every year here is a lateral move. To move forward, I think I need to move on. Again, it’s a work in present… and these feelings on the matter are something that have manifested as a result of doing this interview. So I appreciate that, very much. Probably more than you’ll ever know. I have a set on Flickr called ‘The Roots of Imperfection‘ which is a collection of stories that accompany images. If I was a drug dealer that would be what they call a taste.

HESO: Thank you for your time.

Billy: I appreciate anyone who stuck around long enough to read these words.

Billy Gomez

Modern Loops: Interview with Photographer Billy Gomez is part of HESO Magazine’s ongoing Summer Interview Series, where we interview photographers, musicians and artists about their work and what they think about the world of 2012. We may ask them similar questions, but the answers have been anything but the same old canned responses. Check out the entire series here.

Vinous © Julia Skobeleva

Interview with Photographer Julia Skobeleva

Vinous © Julia Skobeleva

Vinous © Julia Skobeleva

HESO: Who are you and where are you from? Give us some background please.

Julia: I was born an only child in an ordinary Soviet family from Kazakhstan. I graduated from the Faculty of Journalism and worked as an editor in glossy magazines for a long time. I had no dream of becoming a professional photographer, I just want to do what I love–genre portraits and nude photography. But my passion led me to shootings for the money. I was invited to different magazines as a photographer and then to advertisement.

HESO: When did you first pick up a camera?

Julia: I was fascinated by photography in university when I was 19 years old. But then I had a small daughter and I have not had time to do something else. But my dream did not die. When my daughter started to walk, I began taking pictures with the old grandfather’s Canon. At that time I worked as an editor in a glossy magazine Cosmopolitan Kazakhstan and had been saving money for my first digital camera. I was able to buy it only at 24.

Fairy Tales of Freedom © Julia Skobeleva

Fairy Tales of Freedom © Julia Skobeleva

HESO: What work interests you as a commercial photographer in Kazakhstan?

Julia: I am rarely interested in commercial photography in Kazakhstan. It is monotonous and the mechanical work. In our country, a photographer is not an artist, just a technical executive of other peoples’ ideas, just lots of smiling people against a white background. But there are exceptions, for example, I love to do food photography. So I often shoot cookbooks and menus for restaurants. I like it, so I put my soul into this process, but everything you can see on my site in sections nude, fashion or portrait – my creative non-commercial projects. Unfortunately, such photoshoots do not happen for money because glossy magazines and fashion are poorly developed in our country.

HESO: Do you prefer analog to digital photography or vice versa. Or is it not important? Explain.

Julia: I love film, especially black and white, and especially when it is nude. It gives an incredible volume, beautiful grain and creates a unique mood. It places emphasis on form and light. On the other hand, in fashion photography I use only a digital camera, because it is practical and allows for post-processing. As Candace Meyer said, “Digital makes it easy to shoot, but you still have to have it down technically to make things really work.”

HESO: Many photographs have the feel of a memory or a dream. Is this purposeful? To what end?

Julia: In fact, I’m just dreaming about the large-format camera Deardoff. I like the floating focus, color and most importantly the incredible depth. I try to copy that style with my other camera. I like taking pictures as if it were a painting. I reflect the truth, but it’s a little deceptive, because all the photographers are liars. We show what we want. I want to create portraits, which will show beauty for many, many years. My model will put her picture in a frame, and then will show it to the grandchildren, as memories of the best years of her beauty. Because the photo was created specifically for this – to give people good memories.

HESO: About your shooting style, do you have a preferred method?

Salty wind © Julia Skobeleva

Salty wind © Julia Skobeleva

Julia: I use my camera only when I have a specific idea, a clear image or just a strong desire to photograph something. Perhaps it is because I am a posed photographer and never fond of reportage. I love natural poses, as if taken out of someone else’s life by accident. Maybe my models are just good actresses:)

HESO: Some of your nudes are not the typical “Beautiful”, which is a good thing. What do you want to portray when you photograph the female body?

Julia: As I said, I want to show the naturalness and truthfulness. We do not think of a straight posture when sitting in a room alone with ourselves, we do not think about the makeup, hair, or do not want to look better than we are. I want my audience to look a little deeper than they usually look at pictures.

HESO: Who are your favorite photographers?

Julia: Paolo Roversi, Sally Mann, Candace Meyer, Ryan Mcginley and Alina Lebedeva.

HESO: You work with charities, notably the Asian Children’s Paralympic games. How did you become involved with this?

Estrangement © Julia Skobeleva

Estrangement © Julia Skobeleva

Julia: The girl from this organization was looking for photographers who will agree to shoot the children for free, because they had no budget. And I agreed.

Also, later I participated in a controversial project, where 12 female-photographers took nude self-portraits for the annual calendar. The money received from the sale of calendars, we were able to make the expensive surgery for a few poor children. But many people condemned this way of charity. They called us licentious and ostentatious persons. It was very sad.

HESO: What is your favorite food? If you could eat with anyone, alive or dead, in any time period in history, in any place, who, when and where?

Julia: I love Asian, Italian and Czech cuisine. I generally like to eat 🙂 and I love to travel. Especially by car. Kazakhstan is a very large and beautiful country, my husband is also a photographer,so we always shoot on our journeys. I always thought that life was better during the hippie period at 60s-70s. This should be great fun to ride in a hippie bus with Beatles, eat some beans or broccoli 🙂 And if seriously, I would like to talk over dinner in the artist Frida, I was very close to her work.

At the moment I am working to get out to other countries. I would be interested in working with foreign magazines or go to the master class of professionals in my work.

This interview is part of HESO Magazine’s ongoing Summer Interview Series, where we interview photographers, musicians and artists about their work and what they think about the world of 2012. We may ask them similar questions, but the answers have been anything but the same old canned responses. Check out the entire series here.

Interview with Photographer Edward Olive

Interview with Photographer Edward Olive

Interview with Photographer Edward Olive

HESO: When did you first pick up a camera?

Edward: Very late on, but I’m not looking back. I’m looking to keep taking my photos to the next level and to move all my old pictures just as far round the world as they can go. Sometimes I look back at old photos and think everything I did was **** or I could do it better now. Other times I see some value in the naivety.

HESO: You have a very distinct portfolio, including nudes, fashion, commercial and many of them have the look have the look of fine art photography, yet there is a sense of toy camera aesthetic at work here as well. Please tell us about the way you work on any given project.
Edward: As Helmut Newton said it not the camera that takes the shots, it’s the photographer. It doesn’t matter how the pictures are made. What matters is at the end of the day ending up with the best photo you can take. A photo that means something. A photo that objectively has value…a photo that will then go on to have a life of its own. It will have its own importance. There are people that come to look at it, those that buy it, those that put it on the cover of something years down the line.

To do the sensible, normal, accepted thing in any particular decade thing will produce the sensible “correct” normal photos you see from that decade. To take crazy technical decisions can increase risk and to use technology from other decades or that you invent or make will take you off the rails and either make you pictures that are a total a disaster or a huge success. The degree of risk you take is a decision you have to make in any venture, not just in stock-broking.

HESO: Photography as a degree of risk…somehow I don’t think you’re referencing the current digital technological shift. Do you prefer analog to digital photography or vice versa?

Edward: Terry O’Neill said he used film for people he cared about and digital for jobs that didn’t matter. I wouldn’t argue with him. He’s a genius.

Scan of silver gelatin darkroom print hand made by the photographer from expired black & white negative film hand developed by the photographer

Scan of silver gelatin darkroom print hand made by the photographer from expired black & white negative film hand developed by the photographer

I let people who hire me choose what suits them best. I don’t argue with people who want to pay me professional fees. They’re paying, they’re in charge. I like people to get what they really want. I like people to be happy. People know what they want. They come to me. I listen and try my best to do just what they tell me they like. What I personally think is best is of no importance to them.

Personally, I have no interest whatsoever in digitalizing any image I want to produce except at the very end stage, once the image is as I want it to be, just to scan the final handmade print. The scanning allows more people to see it on screens than is possible in real life and also clients can use it for all sorts of things that will give my picture new life or lives like book or cd covers or advertising campaigns.

Of course if people are still looking to byy high bulk at low cost in large numbers of realistic, descriptive, focused photos that clearly look like they are from this decade then I would be a fool not to take the money. I don’t get paid a million dollars a picture like Elizabeth Taylor but her view on the subject of money still has a lot of sense. Warhol was no fool either. I take digital photos if that’s what people want. If I didn’t they would just hire someone else.

HESO: Many photographs lack faces or obscure the person / people. Is this purposeful? To what end?

Edward: On the internet I put a very few of the pictures I produce each year. A variety from the different projects I have done. There are more and less descriptive pictures. There are photos that show or allude to the representation of people, things, places, ideas, feelings, concepts and moments in time. All the photos I take each year I store in boxes of negatives and prints and thousands of gigas of digitalized or digital files. Periodically I look through them all and put a few on sale or on public display depending on how I feel at the time about that type of picture. I take care not to release all the pictures publicly and often not until a year or two later because so many people who purport to be art photographers try and copy them as soon as they are on the internet and we have had to threaten legal proceedings against very large numbers of Spanish wedding photographers and videographers who have been using my photos in their websites to advertise their photography services. Surprising, shocking, immoral, illegal yet unfortunately all too true here in Spain.

HESO: So you are also a wedding photographer, is that correct? Which came first the fine art photographer or the wedding photographer? And do they overlap?

Edward: There will always be people who try to pigeon hole you or your work for ease of classification. There are many areas of creative arts and many types of photography. The difficult thing is to stand out above the endless zillions whether its weddings or nudes or whatever. To call what I do fine art makes me feel sometimes like a fraud or a donk when you think of genuine fine artists like Chema Madoz.

It is very sad that the very few who actually produce interesting pictures, the really gifted, often pass away early like Donovan or burn the lot because they are sick of the whole thing like Duffy. But this happens in so many creative professions. Looking back at photography books of Jim Morrison, Jimmy Hendrix or John Lennon is very sad.

HESO: Some of your photographs seem like stills from a film. Do you like film? What particular genres? Any particular favorites?

Photograph © Edward Olive

Photograph © Edward Olive

Edward: I like film in the sense of the meaning of negatives or slide and love almost all films, papers and chemicals.

I use all sorts of things from hand developed 35mm, 120mm and 220mm black & white, slide and c41 films of all types, silver gelatin and RA4 papers, water paint, scanners and enlargers, digital and film cameras and lenses from 1920 to 2012, studio lighting of all types for the look that I am looking for any particular shot. Nothing I use isn’t widely on sale either still produced or second hand. All the tools and the fuels are available to everyone. It’s what you do with the paint and brushes that matter.

I am glad Nova, Paterson, Kaiser, Tetenal, Foma, Ilford, Fuji and Kodak still produce some genuine photography products for the enlightened few who still remain. One day there may be no genuine artisans left, just the generic producer of endless cheap fake plastic copies churned out for the masses. That will be sad.

I also like film in the sense of movies and if my pictures look like movie stills that’s great. I learned my first lighting and shot set ups on set working as an actor in TV, films and commercials. I still study the DOP’s every time I get an acting job. Very few stills photographers have the same level as good DOP’s.

HESO: Who are your favorite photographers?

Edward: Sometimes I look back at Jean Loup Sieff’s or Scavullo’s black & whites or color by Clifford Coffin or Guy Bourdin and think I may as well throw in the towel because it was all done far better 30-70 years ago. You look at so much Demarchelier now and see Avedon. You can look at Testino and see Horst or Beaton.

I love Richard Avedon. He will always be the greatest photographer.

HESO: What do you do when you are not working?

Edward: It’s hard to remember. I think I used to have time to travel without work, read, cook, have a social life, play sports and go dancing. But that seems a long time ago now. 

HESO: Any final thoughts?

Edward: There will be people who understand what I try to do and those that don’t. There will be those who look at my pictures with the knowledge and sensitivity of experts in photography and/or art and those who have never heard of Doisneau or Parkinson. There will be people who think my pictures are good, those that think they are bad and those that say they think they are good or bad for reasons that may not be impartial.

For somebody to say your work is great may mean for that person no more than its cool or nice. For another person the word great in relation to photographers refers only to Erwitt or Cartier Bresson and those that are truly great photographers. That is another concept entirely. Few in any generation will have any importance in the long term.

Edward Olive
+0034 605610767

This interview is part of HESO Magazine’s ongoing Summer Interview Series, where we interview photographers, musicians and artists about their work and what they think about the world of 2012. We may ask them similar questions, but the answers have been anything but the same old canned responses. Check out the entire series here.

The Wonderful and Dangerous World of Yellow

The Wonderful and Dangerous World of Yellow

This has never happened before. I don’t really know how to proceed. It is the internet age after all and who does interviews in person anymore? What small media outlet can afford to send a staff writer and photographer anywhere these days, let alone out to Singapore, where despite the allure of talking to burgeoning multi-media artist Adeline Tan about her paintings and illustrations, one cannot even chew gum or find porn in a 7-11? So far as we here at HESO Studio can glean is that she has been taken hostage by her own creation, Yellow, a charming mustard stain with aggression issues who pops up all over town, invited or not.

In the following Skype Chat excerpt, Adeline goes on to describe her relationship to Yellow:

The Wonderful and Dangerous World of Yellow

The Wonderful and Dangerous World of Yellow

Roses Are Red Daisies Are Yellow © Adeline Tan

HESO: There was some controversy concerning an appearance Yellow made. What’s that about?

Adeline: A friend was having a show and I wasn’t in town. At the end of the night she saw Yellow’s face plastered on the wall. She thought I snuck in and did it, but I was like, ‘That’s not me man, I’m overseas!’ Someone printed up Yellow from the Internet, cut him out, and guerrilla graffiti’s him without me even knowing.

HESO: So he – is it a him? – so he has a life of his own. You must get asked all the time, how did you meet?

Adeline: No.

HESO: Well, how did you meet?

Adeline: Ok, I was just like working, you know, but actually I was dozing off at my desk in my cubicle. And he just walked past.

HESO: Sleeping at your cubicle?

Adeline: I ate too much, got sleepy and that’s how we met.

HESO: This is at TCCG? – What does that stand for by the way? – It’s cool to sleep at work?

Adeline: The Ching-Chong Group. My bosses have spent a long time in the industry, got tired of agencies with white peoples’ names, so they named themselves TCCG: The Ching-Chong Group. And yes, no one cares if I sleep at work. My job is just to draw. So I go to work and draw, then I go home and draw.

HESO: That’s not a bad gig. Then you go home and draw the “Salarymen” or the “Half A Person” series, for example, both of which possess definite references to Japan. What impression do you have of Japan?

Adeline: Japan is quite strange, in a good way. It’s like a live anime. It’s easy to understand how anime and manga exist because they (the Japanese) live like that everyday. That’s the society they created.

HESO: What does Yellow think of Japan?

Adeline: He likes Suica. The penguin, you know…

HESO: Is there a Suica giftshop?

Adeline: There is, and Yellow didn’t want to leave…

HESO: No one ever wants to leave that place.

Muffled growls and footsteps, followed by a soaring sound – presumably Yellow performing a Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka move on Adeline. Sounds of wrestling and flying sheets of paper, paint splattering, pencils clattering to the ground.

Adeline: Ok, I’m back. He was getting jealous of you, I think. He’s just hungry, wants some fries.

HESO: In a town full of exotic food choices and plentiful restaurants and street food stalls his favorite food is fries. Really?

Adeline: Singapore food is quite cheap, so you just go out anywhere. Fries are just that something different. I’m always hungry.

HESO: O.K., heh, any plans for new exhibitions?

Adeline: Just working for my friend, doing posters for a music festival.

HESO: How do you come up with your ideas?

Adeline: I just do it man. We come up with an idea and we do it.

HESO: Is that different from work?

Adeline: Oh man, it’s so different. Things we could do in a day, take months.

HESO: Yeah, that’s the modern world. You must be patient.

Adeline: I’m patient. Yellow is not. He’s asking who are you and why are you on trains all the time? He wants some fries.

HESO: That’s interesting, because a lot of your work has a kind of gracefulness to it, a very patient quality, if you will.

Adeline: Ummm…

HESO: And then there is the “Facebook Facts Illustrated” piece, which is just awesome by the way: a Mermaid Chuck Norris, Hip-Hop Unicorns, Bowling Ball Head Man, Marilyn Monroe in front of an overturned Campbell’s Soup Can (& Yellow drinking Champagne…of course), and all of it inside a massive “cheezburger”…it pretty much sums up all pop culture for the last 60 years.

Adeline: Yeah, I guess. Thanks.

HESO: It seems like my idea of what Singapore must be like: crowded, with food and people hanging around everywhere, somewhat absurd post-modern references, all within a framework of authoritarian rule.

Adeline: Yes, they are strict here. No porn, no chewing gum. No blood, sex, gore, or anything like that. You will die for a small amount of drugs. There is a 500 dollar fine for not flushing public toilets…

HESO: How would they find you?

Adeline: That’s what I want to know. There are these plainclothes, middle-aged men stalking you, but they are easy to spot. Yeah, Singapore has like zero unemployment.

HESO: Hmmm, do you feel followed?

Adeline: It’s so crowded here, you don’t need to feel followed to be followed.

HESO: I thought Tokyo was bad. Where do you see Yellow in five years?

Adeline: No idea. He just lives for today. He’s a dangerous man.

At this point in the interview, a series of muffled squeaks are heard and Adeline no longer responds. Only a very quiet, yet very manly voice — presumably Yellow’s — comes on skype and begins chanting, “Look at me! Look at me!” louder and louder. At this point the following file was sent via skype file share, then the session abruptly ended. HESO has not heard from Adeline. We hope that she is alive and well and making more dangerous art. This time, take out the plainclothes gum cops.

Placebo with Zakuro © Ontoshiki

Interview with Tokyo Photographer Ontoshiki

In the old days, when a man was building his credibility as an artist, he did so rather anonymously. There might be a break here or there in this or that magazine or fashion catalogue but it would be difficult for this person to build a public name outside the small circle of his metropolitan environs. There was no forum for strangers to witness the flourishing of an individual’s sensibility. The support network could be minimal, the journey, lonely.

I’ve never met the man who goes by the mysterious name of Ontoshiki but that doesn’t mean I don’t know him. I first discovered him a little more than a year ago on flickr. I can’t remember exactly what shot it was but I think it might have been from his Tohoku series, which Ontoshiki visited shortly after the devastating March 11th quake. Amidst the destruction are solitary shots of people. What are they doing here? Looking through the ruins? Contemplating how life could ever be the same again? I learned quickly his Tohoku work is in no way emblematic of his oeuvre— Ontoshiki is not a photojournalist— but is consistent with his strong feelings regarding mood and emotion.

I am of the camp that the photos we take are like the results of a Rorschach test, giving ourselves away, what we feel about love, humanity, even political and spiritual viewpoints. You can tell from a man’s photographs whether you’d like the man himself. After all, it’s not just the way he sees the world— every photograph is an appreciation of a certain moment that is then publicized to express selfhood. A photo then is not just saying, “Look at this!” but is whispering in your ear, “This is me…”

That said I know I’d like Ontoshiki the man. Beyond technical commonalities (like me he seems to shoot mostly in color with film cameras) it’s his unmistakable interest in beauty and humanism that makes him simpatico. Yes, he photographs beautiful women but he is careful to allow them their sense of mystery. When I peruse his many photos of women I’m not just looking at their finery and appreciating their feminine charms; I’m also sensing their autonomy (as opposed to being mere sex objects). All too often fashion photography feels reductive (it is after all selling something) but Ontoshiki allows his subjects their vulnerability. Moodiness has precedence over glamour. This emphasis is something you rarely find in photos of beautiful women.

I suppose it works here because Ontoshiki is coming at photography with his dual interest in self-expression and aesthetic appreciation. Some people want to make perfectly abstract photos of buildings. Others find their eye in war zones. And then some just adore beautiful women. In his own words, Ontoshiki writes that sensuality “in photography is tantamount to having an intimate dance with a woman; timing, technique, intricate body movements…shooting someone for an extended period gives me a feeling of palpable intimacy.” It’s not a job then, it’s a life.

A Lust Restrained © Ontoshiki

A Lust Restrained © Ontoshiki

HESO: When did you first pick up a camera?

Ontoshiki: I’ve been shooting since I was a teen. I was born in Malaysia but my ancestor’s roots are from China. When I was 9 years old, my family immigrated to Australia so I was raised and educated there. 

In 2005, I made a big decision to quit a decent job (in the Australian government) and I eventually arrived in Tokyo. With a constant stream of culture, interesting faces and beautiful scenes happening right in front of my eyes, I felt like I needed something with a little more control in order to document these fascinating visuals. A year later, after being inspired by film photographers I came across, I ventured into film photography and immediately fell in love with the Pentacon 6 and a cheap plastic Holga. I eventually opted for the 6×6 format Hasselblad and the 35mm format Minolta. 

I don’t have any formal education but I will be going to Paris, France to study at SPEOS school of photography to eventually to work on meaningful long-term documentary projects which focus on community and inherent social issues.

HESO: You get up in the morning, look out the window, what do you see?

Ontoshiki: I’m not a morning person so maybe I see the world a little differently, moving in time-lapse. I feel like I’m a goldfish swimming around in a fishbowl watching the world go by. Going back in history, the last 50 years has changed more significantly than the last 1000 years. This phenomenon is known as “the quickening” and I believe this is a sign that the world is on the verge of major social, economic, political and spiritual change. We are living in an upside-down world full of misinformation. I used to be nihilistic and live in a world of existential ennui, but photography has given me meaning. When I quit my job many years ago and moved to Japan, I wasn’t sure what I was doing: perhaps it was to escape the my life back then. Picking up photography has given me a tool to explore my inner and outer Universes for truth, connect the dots of life and to understand the synchronicities that has led me to this point.

Secret Kyoto © Ontoshiki

Secret Kyoto © Ontoshiki

HESO: You have a very distinct portfolio, full of color and ranging across a variety of subject matter, from classic traditional to edgy counterculture. There is a sense of discipline and order underlying many of your images, yet, strictly speaking, they are not all in focus. What is your main objective in photographing something?

Ontoshiki: Quite the contrary, I really think my portfolio lacks order or discipline. If there were elements of any, perhaps the discipline and order may have come from the educational system in Malaysia. In Australia, the education system was free-flowing, interactive and students were allowed their own voice.

In terms of what I shoot, as with any rookie photographer or painter, I started out shooting scenes from daily life, flowers, stills, people but nothing out of the ordinary. To draw an analogy, it was akin to being born but without your vocal chords developed. You are but a newborn watching and observing, listening and learning but once you are ready, you gradually develop a voice. Now that I am ready, I want to communicate to people the way I see the world and the sights and sounds that have influenced and inspired me.

Lately, I’m sometimes paid to shoot things I/m not particularly interested in. but I do it in order to financially support my other photographic endeavors. Photography is not a “cheap thrill” but I’ll try not to sell myself out and focus on the subjects that interest me.

HESO: Do you prefer analog to digital photography or vice versa? Or is it not important? Explain.

Ontoshiki: For personal work, portraiture, street and documentary, I definitely prefer shooting film especially in black and white — the tones and highlights are incomparable to a straight digital black and white conversion which is often flat, lacks contrast and depth. I shoot digital for assignments and editorials due to cost, speed and convenience.

Feline Fatale © Ontoshiki

Feline Fatale © Ontoshiki

HESO: You possess a knack for extracting color out of a scene. Yet you also have a very large, and quite masterful collection of black and white photographs. What do you feel is the main difference between the two and how do you approach shooting color as opposed to shooting black and white?

Ontoshiki: I love the masters of paintings: van Gogh, Monet, Degas; film: Wong Kar Wai, Ridley Scott, Tim Burton; contemporary photographers: Eugenio Recuenco, Damon Loble, Michelangelo di Battista, Elizaveta Porodina. Their colors are punchy, mood strong, voyeuristic, mysterious, yet the look is still dreamy and organic. If I can get anywhere close to a combination of their styles, I will be on the right track.

If I honestly critique myself, I am not afraid to admit that my digital work “sucks”. I am an amateur with artificial lighting and photoshop post-processing. On the other hand, I feel that my black and white film work is closer to where I want to be. I remember the story of the Master sushi chef who’s been making the same sushi for over 25 years and when asked if he were happy with his sushi, he promptly replied “My sushi is still not good.” On that timeline, I am only in my 3rd to 4th year since I was reborn photographically.

HESO: You have many photos of far-off people in some kind of cityscape. Do you prefer to shoot landscapes or vistas or people? A combination of both? Are these scenes candid or contrived? Do you use models or random strangers? If the latter, do you ask permission?

Ontoshiki: Initially, when I started photographing the streets and people, I would shoot them in the distance. Over the years, I learnt how to get closer and fill the frame and I think that is very much also a reflection of how I am a little less afraid of making the commitment to get closer to someone on a personal level. I suppose you could say that photography has granted me a sort of quasi-intimate relationship with the people I shoot.

Do I ask permission? I do a bit of both, obviously with my street photos they are all random strangers sometimes I stop to ask but most times I shoot them going about their daily business. I recently try to venture into places and go to events where I can likely meet interesting personalities but sometimes I am lucky enough to meet people and subjects serendipitously. In fact, one of the most interesting shoots Ive had done in my life I unexpectedly met at a bar in Shibuya. He is a prominent franchise owner in the U.S. who was in Japan to franchise his business but he was also here to learn the art of “kinbaku” which is the art of rope tying bondage. We got to talking, agreed on a price and I ended up doing a photoshoot for him at the studio of infamous “shibari” rope master, Steve Osada. On another day, I did a photoshoot of him, his girlfriend and two other guys having a four-some. Needless to say, that was the weirdest shooting experiences I’ve ever been involved with and Im not sure if Id do it again to be honest 😉 …oh, just for the record, I didn’t participate.

HESO: Hah! Who are your favorite photographers? Any images in particular stick out to you?

Ontoshiki: I’d like to pay homage to the masters: Helmut Newton, Nobuyoshi Araki, Eugene Smith, James Nachtwey, Daido Moriyama.

A few years ago around the time I started on my photography journey my good friend Mika who’s a professional photographer took me to an exhibition at a small gallery in Ginza to see the work of fetish photographer “Yasuji Watanabe”. It’s hard to explain but at the time, I was rather stoic about the experience. I know looking back, that deep down inside the images really grabbed me, yet I didn’t know how to react or what I wanted to do with it because I was still in my photographic womb. I realize now a seed was planted within me and a few years on, I am taking my first steps on the path to photographing themes of beauty, sensualism, fetishism and erotica. I would say that I have found the voice resonating deep within me which lay dormant at the time.

If You Stole My Sunset © Ontoshiki

If You Stole My Sunset © Ontoshiki

HESO: What do you do when you are not working?

Ontoshiki: I’ve been occupied with…spirituality, yoga, street photography, mixed martial arts, urban exploration, blogging, working on my website and venturing to places in order to meet new people for my photography projects.

HESO: How has the tragedy of 3/11 affected you? Those around you? Friends and family? What do you feel you have done to help? What needs to be done?

Ontoshiki: What have I done to help? Not enough. I was lucky enough to join the crew of JTI Foundation and Fukushima Future on their projects in Tohoku and Fukushima. I really wish I had more time, money and resources but what I did documenting the tragedy was for very selfish reasons. However, through this experience I was able to communicate my voice and viewers who came across my photos could feel hope and compassion among all the devastation. I would definitely like to go up there again if I have a chance to see the positive progress and to document happier moments.

As tragic as it was, it really helped me to understand myself better as a person. I am a selfish and complicated person by nature yet I feel theres a compassionate humanitarian part of me which is dying to be released from its shackles. I know one day I will find that altruistic part of me and pull him out of that deep, dark abyss.

My family and friends, much like everyone else were obviously concerned about what was happening in Japan. Watching the situation unfold on TV where “bad news is good news” is never easy on the families of people affected. At the same time, I don’t thing it was a stretch to say that Fukushima was minutes from the worst nuclear disaster in history.

HESO: Ontoshiki, if you want to mention anything else about yourself, your work or a charitable cause you work with—anything—please do so here.

Ontoshiki: Firstly, I’d like to thank the team at HESO, you Manny, Sean and to everyone who follows my work. Find me on my Facebook page and drop me a message.

This interview is part of HESO Magazine’s ongoing Summer Interview Series, where we interview photographers, musicians and artists about their work and what they think about the world of 2012. We may ask them similar questions, but the answers have been anything but the same old canned responses. Check out the entire series here.

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