05 02 2015
By Sophie Pigram (translation by Yumi Goto)
While traveling through Japan in the past few weeks I had the honour of spending an afternoon at The Reminders Photography Stronghold, a collective space for young and upcoming photographers in Tokyo to find inspiration on the walls and in Yumi Goto’s photobook library. During my visit I was able to interview two of Japan’s most celebrated young photographers Daichi Koda and Yoshikatsu Fujii about their latest publications Springboard and Red String. The first was with Yoshikatsu Fuji.
I was first drawn to Yoshikatsu’s Red String in August of 2014 when it stood out among the collection of photobooks Yumi Goto had brought to Howard’s bookstore in Penang, Malaysia for the Obscura Photography Festival. The felt textural cover with contrasting red binding and simple design was immediately entrancing. To my delight upon opening the photobook I discovered that it came in two parts, on the left hand side a portrait of a father holding his child and to the right another portrait of the mother holding the same baby, this was a family divided in half, the little child connecting the two together. When both sides are opened the family is revealed as a whole, the photographs from both sides connecting with one another, viewed one side to another. The quiet eyes of the mother stare back whilst you view the father’s story and vice versa. Red String‘s design is so simple and clever, presenting the narrative of a family divided together as one in the object; Fujii is the tie between his Mother and Father, a lingering reminder that they were once together.
How did you first get into photography?
Originally I was working in moving image and film-stills but after a while I began to search for something I could do independently. Using film a large crew is required and a lot of planning. I first started shooting on an analogue 35mm Nikon and was interested in trying to show how I see.
What lead to the decision to turn the works into a photobook?
I had so many single images that I didn’t know to fit them all together or to tell a story. However, once they were in book format it was easier to curate a narrative, there was a place for my images within the book, and the story began to reveal itself within the images
How did you find the curating process of creating ‘Red String’?
I had never been taught how to make a photo-story before, but I wanted to push my photography further, rather than just take photographs. There had to be a meaning behind them. It isn’t easy to edit down the photographs, all photographers know the struggle of having some really strong aesthetic images that don’t fit in and also having photographs that don’t particularly work as a single but collectively bring forth the narrative.
I created the dummy copy in a workshop with Yumi Goto at Reminders Photography Stronghold, it was much easier when I had guidance and a second opinion when making decisions on the work.
The design of ‘Red String’ is so integral to the narrative, what lead you to make these decisions in the work?
The idea actually came quite simply. As the book focuses on my parents divorce it didn’t make sense to have their stories together in the same book, so it was decided to make two parts to the one book – just as there are two lives within the one marriage. That is also why it was so important to make these two sides speak to each other as well, to refer back to the fact that they were once together but now are separated. This was also the reasoning behind the use of the red string. The string acts as a binding within the spine of the book but no longer connects the two lovers together – however the children become the red string, the history of the relationship, the connection that no longer exists apart from the threads.
This is also why the book cover is made of white felt, it is soft and comforting to touch yet can be easily dirtied and becomes quite precious. The cover will show ageing over time the more it is read and worn down, it symbolises how the family relationship becomes worn over time too.
How did you go about mixing photographs of your childhood and parents past with your own work?
When I first decided to create a book I didn’t have that much material as I’d only been photographing for about 2 years. I had been documenting only my father photographically as my mother did not like to be photographed as much. The decision was made to use the family archives as it was integral to have the family history behind the work, to add context to the meaning and also to reference the family’s collective memory.
As a photographer of course I thought it would be nice to have a book all of my own photographs but now I am much more flexible with using both family photos and my own, especially when it helps build the photo-story. However, I must be careful in what respect I use the found imagery and where it has come from.
Was it hard to find imagery that spoke to you and your concept in the archives of family photographs?
In the beginning it wasn’t easy to find photographs but after searching through the archives of the remnants of my parents own childhood and mine it has become easier to find material to use in creating a narrative. Once I widened my search to include more media not only photography it became easier. There is one picture that my mother drew when she was a child that I used in the book, it represents her own childhood so the viewer can see much further in time and history.
Why did you decide to mix both black and white and colour images in the book?
I only shoot with black and white film in my photography and all of the colour images are actually from the family archives.
As these works are so personal how do you feel about the international reception to the photo-book?
It depends on the person. I suppose some could feel it is too personal, but for me it doesn’t really matter because I think every viewer can relate to it on some level, everyone has a Mother and Father. And besides it’s better though that it’s viewed internationally rather than in Japan as my mother does not know about the book yet.
What does the future hold for your work?
I am currently working on a new book to be published in March through Reminders Photography Stronghold. This time I am looking at my whole family more from an outsiders perspective and taking a step back. I’ll also be mixing not only archival imagery but using both film and digital pieces. I think the next design will be something very simple, almost like a newspaper.