Young Japanese talent Akiomi Kuroda's work breathes a distinct personal style. Remarkable is the high dose of 'fine art' in his nudes and portraits. He always finds the perfect way to control shadows and to blow out highlights. Read more about him and admire his beautiful photographs. Thanks to Yvette Depaepe for conducting the interview.
Briefly tell us about yourself, your hobbies and other jobs.
I have no specific experience, but three favourite things have an impact on my photography: movies, beautiful things, and people. Since I was born, I have been surprised at the diversity of people.
How have your history and life experiences affected your photography?
At first, I bought a camera in my early 30s for my trip, and my photos taken on the trip were awarded in a domestic photo contest. I was full of myself for a while. Then, anytime I went on a trip, I took landscape or snap photos there. In other words, I took pictures once a month just for those trips.
But one day, when I went on a trip with my friend as usual, I took a photo of the friend. The photo won another award in a photo contest. That experience led me to take portraits.
Since then, the number of shootings has increased gradually, and I realized that I loved people. That recognition was more important than the award and prize itself.
What first attracted you to photography?
Not some specific important experiences, but my own character has a big impact on my art. In my personal opinion, Japanese tend to admire the European culture. Of course, Japanese culture has a great identity and the uniqueness is never seen in the other cultures, but generally the contemporary Japanese have an admiration for the beauty in the European culture. So do I.
On the other hand, I was raised in Japan, a comparatively closed society. The sensibility mixed with a touch of European culture might create my art.
I have been living only in Japan, so my soul is dedicated to Japan.
As I have said above, when I started to shoot, I was not attracted to photography; the camera was just a new toy for the “child,” who was fed up with it soon.
But when I happened to visit the exhibition of photographer Herb Ritts in L.A., my attitude of only recording changed and I started to create, not just record. I realized that photography was not limited to recording, but could create new things. Now I know that is natural, but it was new to me then, as I had never seen anyone else’s photography. I had no idea how to create through photography.
Describe your overall photographic vision.
I have a few concrete visions about my photography, so I practise every day to crystallize it. I have a vision of what to achieve in the future. You could say that my photos may be full of variety, or you could say that they lack consistency. Someday, when I feel satisfied with my growth in the technical aspect, I will start shooting with on some specific themes. But now, friends will be friends, so I hope friends feel proud of being friends with me.
Why are you so drawn by Fine Nude Art & portraits?
Basically I love to see people. I love to experience unknown things, and to see unknown people, so I want to meet as many as I can.
Naturally, each person’s beauty itself has no relation to my photos. Before starting portraits, I took landscape or snap photos. At the time, when I went out, a camera was just an option. But since starting portraits, now I go out in order to shoot.
Nude photos are slightly different from Portraits. When I take nude photos, the beauty is really important. Especially my interest is directed to the whole shape of human body, not to each part. In addition, clothes are the projection of our culture. In this sense, clothes are unnecessary to the beauty of the human body. Without the effect of our culture, I want to present the natural body. The series of “Dressed” awarded on 1x’s FINE ART NUDE is created along with this concept.
What is more important to you, the mood, /story behind your images or the technical perfection?
In general, the mood is. I apply a lot of colours and moods to my photos, and that diversity depends on the whole mood of the photo itself and myself.
Occasionally, I focus on the story or concept of the photos. Those photos are not favourable in terms of the mood, but sometimes highly evaluated. In that case, I just appreciate the curator’s taste of beauty. Of course, the technical perfection is always essential.
Now I want to shoot so-called commercial photos and graphic arts, so I need to be more skill-full in Photoshop. In Japan, it is difficult because the technical tips are really few.
What generally is your relationship to your subject matter beyond being an observer?
Well... the problem is not “beyond being an observer”, but I want to get more friendly with them.
I don’t need to shoot “the people as they are.” But unless the models are naturally relaxed with me, their expression inevitable will be pretending.
Of course, I want them to play roles in my photos, but I don’t like too much acting. So relaxing and be natural is the most important. Not too caring nor too polite, I should just be their good friend and a good supporter for them.
Do you prepare carefully the locations where you are intending to photograph?
Sometimes I start to shoot somewhere I don’t know with no preparation at all. It is like a very good training, where I can succeed or not in taking any decent photos in the unknown land with the unknown light. But, when I have a specific image in my mind, that’s another story. Then, I fix a certain time and place to fit everything to my intended image.
With D810, I use Nikkor AFS 85mm F1.4 / Sigma 35mm F1.4 Art / Zeiss Makro Planar 50mm F2 / Zeiss Apo Sonnar 135mm F2.
With Sony A7RII, Batis 25mm F2 / Distagon 35mm F1.4 ZM. The shots published on 1x are mainly taken with Nikon.
I use a Thinktank bag, but I don’t have any particular favourites in bags.
What software do you use to process your images?
I use Lightroom and Photoshop. Basically, I modify exposure in Lightroom, and add a retouch on colours, skins and particular parts in Photoshop. When I don’t need Photoshop, I complete my image only in Lightroom.
Can you tell us something more about your workflow?
In Lightroom, I try to finish modifying exposure, because I don’t care about exposure in Photoshop. Contrast should not be deeply manipulated in Lightroom, that is the role of Photoshop. Colors are mainly arranged in Photoshop, not in Lightroom.
Sometimes I need to modify the skin of models. Those modifications are done in Photoshop.
When I retouch the face of models, I don’t use blending or Face-Aware Liquify. I don’t think the technique is bad, but I want to capture the beauty as it is. In addition, every detail is the unique character of each model, so I don’t want to deny their characteristics.
What is your most important advice to a beginner in Fine Art and Portrait photography and how do you get started?
If you want to take pictures of people, the most important advice is to respect your subject. Especially when you shoot nude photos. Models should agree to the session with no reservations. The photographer should be committed to treating the models with dignity and care.
Who are your favourite photographers and more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography?
I admire Gregory Crewdson, Paolo Pellegrin and Steve McCurry. In addition, I have a strong sympathy for Shuji Kobayashi (member shuji), a Japanese photographer. His concept and works are really great. But I am not only influenced by Japanese, everything and everyone in the world has had some kind of influence on me.
Of course, a lot of photographers inspired me as I have said above, but the deepest inspiration comes from the movies. I love David Mackenzie’s “Perfect Sense” and the works by Tersem Singh. Above all, David Fincher’s movie is the best one. When I watch his works, I realized I was affected and inspired so much by his works. Especially the suspense scenes that are ruled by silence and austerity.
Are there any specific directions that you would like to take your photography in the future or any specific goals that you wish to achieve?
One of my goals is to take the photo that I myself am satisfied with.
It is not until I can develop my skills to objectify my ideas that I can capture and realize my theme and emotion in my works. A lot of ideas and concepts come up in my mind every day, but for now I keep them just in my mind. Of course, I appreciate the awards and recognitions of my current works.
Describe your favourite photograph taken by you and why it is special to you?
This work is taken 2 years ago, but is so memorable.
First, this was the result of hard working. I had a specific colour in my mind, but I had no way to create the colour. After madly repeating a lot of trial and errors, I could achieve it. This had not been a technical error on retouching, but just the problem of lighting on shooting. For me, that recognition was really important then, because I could understand that I was on my way to the correct destination.
Is there anything else you wish to add and what do you think about 1X as a home base for your work?
I hope 1x will continue to be the most difficult curating site where all photographers feel rejoiced when the works are published on the site. In addition, 1x should be more famous internationally. I knew you by chance, but 1x is not highly known in Japan. Your gallery’s quality is the best in the world.