by Editor Yvette Depaepe
Nobuhiro Ishida is a most talented photographer especially when it comes to Fine Art Nude Photography. His photographs are particularly unique and have a certain sense of freedom. The persons in his images always embody his emotions. In one word, his body of work is "fascinating". Read more about this great artist and the man behind his photographs.
Briefly tell us about yourself, your hobbies and other jobs, dear Nobuhiro.
I was born in Osaka, Japan. Now I work as a System Engineer in Kyoto. When I was a student I loved movies and videos, not photography. I was watching entertaining videos, artistic videos, experimental movies, MTV and all sorts of things. Eventually I wanted to shoot videos of my own and my friends and I started creating movies. I stopped when I started working but the experience of turning my emotions into art left a lasting impression on me.
Finally, I picked up with photography back in 2012. I have no other hobbies and am completely engrossed in photography.
What first attracted you to photography?
In fact, a colleague recommended it to me. I wasn’t particularly interested in it at first but after remembering how fun it was to create movies as a student I decided to give it a try and purchased a camera.
In the beginning, I took photos of landscapes, cats, shrines, cities at night, and old buildings. I didn’t share my photos on the internet or showed them to other people. I just enjoyed walking around the city, climbing mountains, sometimes going on trips and pointing my camera at anything that caught my interest and snapping a photo.
How has your history and life experiences affected your photography?
Which are your most important experiences that has influenced your art?
My photography was greatly influenced by one particular artist.
I have a sister who is quite a bit older than I. Back when I was in elementary school, I’d often sneak into her room while she was away so I could read her large collection of manga. One day, I noticed that she had something other than manga on her bookcase. At the time, she was a college student studying art and her bookcase was filled with art books.
I grabbed a book from her bookcase, flipped through the pages, and went on to the next book and the next... There were all sorts of books on western paintings, illustrations, sculptures, architecture, old Japanese ink paintings, and more. I finally grabbed the last book in her bookcase. This was a huge book for a child like me. It absolutely shocked me. That book was “Necronomicon” by H. R. Giger.
I just was a kid (perhaps his work shouldn’t be seen by children), I didn’t understand the motif behind the machines, humanoids, buildings, and monsters drawn in his work. For me, his work was so mysterious and really influenced my imagination. I was completely absorbed in his work and lost track of time looking through it all. I only stopped once my sister came back home and caught me. She was furious.
More than 20 years passed and I became an adult. That book is now in my bookcase and continues to be a big presence in my life providing the same surprise and shock I felt as a child. H.R. Giger’s work was and is my biggest inspiration. Its influence on me is unmeasurable.
That single book which I discovered in my childhood has provided me with countless ideas and is a most precious memory.
Describe your overall photographic vision.
For my photography embodies my emotions. The people in my photographs are sometimes as scary as demons and sometimes as gentle as angels. This is based on my personal feelings towards the subject.
In my eyes, the subjects themselves form the basis for my work. I form an impression of the subject which constantly changes and evolves when getting to know the subject better.
Why are you so drawn by Fine Art Nude Photography?
A lot of fine art nude photographs are surreal and mysterious. I like to find little mysteries in the photographs and try to come up with a story explaining them. The Fine Art Nude genre has a lot of works which lend themselves well to this. While I like photographs which are easy to understand and try to convey their feelings in a straightforward manner, I also like photographs which can have multiple interpretations based on the observer and how they feel at the moment.
Why do I take fine art nude photographs? That’s easy to explain. I feel that there’s no need for clothes to simply convey the emotion one feels towards the model.
What is more important to you, the mood,/story behind your images or the technical perfection?
The story behind an image is the most important to me but I think that one needs to have enough technical skills to effectively convey that story. In my case, in order to create the work I have in mind, I first need to create and control my ideal light. Hard light, soft light, and its graduation. Conveying emotions in my work through light requires practice and lots of trial and error. I still didn't reach the level where I can reproduce exactly what I have in mind with my current skills. I still have a lot of trial and error to go through before I can create my ideal work.
What generally is your relationship to your subject matter beyond being an observer?
Most of my subjects are friends of mine. Some of them I meet through photography, some are old friends of mine, and some are friends of friends. One of my subjects was a co-worker.
My work comes from casual conversation with friends. Conversations about everyday life, work, family and lovers, pet cats. Also things like sickness. There are light-hearted and fun episodes as well as dark and sad episodes. While listening to my friends I try to picture their thoughts and appearance at the time. This turns over as seeds for my work.
Do you prepare carefully the set-up before each photo shoot?
I tend to block out the natural light and control all aspects of the lighting myself so I spend a lot of time preparing the lighting. However, it is rare that I shoot in a well-equipped environment. Most shoots are done in my room or some other small space. I always struggle with the setup.
What gear do you use (camera, lenses, bag)?
I mainly and still use the first camera I ever bought, a Nikon D800. I use 85mm and 100mm lenses most often. For lighting I use a strobe light, tungsten light, LED lights and others. I rarely use dedicated diffusers. I control the lighting using large white sheets, tracing paper, translucent acrylic boards, styrofoam boards, and dark curtains among others. And since I don't have an assistant, I'm often busy supporting the light stand and use a remote shutter.
What software do you use to process your images?
I use Lightroom to adjust the exposure, the white balance and to trim photos.
Most of the time Lightroom is enough. If I want to edit more a photo then I use Photoshop.
Can you tell us something more about your work flow?
I start with getting to know better the subject. If the subject is a person then we communicate and I try to get to know each other. Of course, there are times when I have a specific image in mind that I'm searching for the person who fits with my idea but most of the time I shoot the same person again and again. By communicating a lot with them the image I had of them will slowly change and solidify.
Once the elements of the image come together, I tell the subject about my plan for the shoot. Of course, if the shoot requires some preparation from the subject too, I give them the time needed to prepare themself. This is probably similar to coming up with a role for movie actors. For example, for a shoot involving insects, I'd ask the subject to raise an insect from a larva. (Afterwords, this particular subject grew too like insects and often visit insect pavilions.)
Next, I prepare the shoot itself and decide what materials to use, what lens to use, should I use a strobe light or a steady light or something else. If I feel that a shoot will be difficult then I first will rehearse on it by myself. Only after rehearsing, I will do the effective shoot so that I can relax and take my time.
After the shoot I'll start retouching the photos. Sometimes I'm editing the photo to make it matching with my original vision, other times my image will not change at this point.
What is your most important advice to a beginner in Fine Art Nude Photography and how do you get started?
I think that the most important thing – not only for Fine Art Nude Photography – is to have your own free ideas. It's important to have your own view rather than be influenced by the established framework of the genre. Starting by finding your own way is probably better than starting by copying someone else's work. This makes it more interesting as well. Photography is completely free from restrictions.
Personally, I was not completely focussed on Fine Art Photography when I started. The direction my work took was influenced by taking photos over and over and by communicating with the models. For both the model and myself, it just happens that Fine Art Nude Photography leads to the best results.
Who are your favourite photographers and more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography?
Joe McNally. I first came by his book, "Sketching Light", in 2014. This book contains many lively portraits of people. A stern-eyed old man, a beautiful ballerina, a strong firefighter. He does a great job portraying the charm and emotion of each subject. I wasn't interested in photos of people until I discovered his work. He is the reason that I wanted to try photographing people.
Is there any specific photo taken by another photographer that has inspired you a lot and why?
Recently people told me that my work was looking a bit like Jan Saudek's work. I didn't have heard of Jan Saudek until then. This triggered my interest and I did a search on internet. I was really surprised and completely overwhelmed. Some of his work is very close to my “ideals”.
But there is still a huge difference between his work and my own. Jan Saudek's work has a strong sexual appealing. My work doesn't have that. I don't know how he made his work but it definitely left a huge impact on me. I'm sure that this will influence my work in the future.
Click here to see a photograph by Jan Saudek
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?
I have a lot of ideas and stories that I want to try out. I want to express what's inside my mind through my work. This is not limited to just Fine Art Nude Photography and people as subjects.
However, I still have to improve a lot of the skills to realize many of my ideas. Anyway, going through trial and errors day after day I will require enough experience to be able to slowly approach my ideal. I still have a lot of challenges to overcome. I still can't see the goal.
Describe your favourite photograph taken by you and why it is special to you?
My all favourite photograph is a photo of a long-haired man and a woman with tattoos. I took this photo in the room where they spend their everyday life. Before the shoot, I gave them some direction like a movie director would. Once I saw them together in their room which was full of reminders of their everyday life, I realized that my directions were completely unnecessary.
It was a hot summer day in 2015. This was my first time doing a nude photo shoot. It was the first time for all of us and we were all nervous. I asked them to ignore me and do as they would normally. As they entangled before my eyes, I completely forget about the camera settings and continued to shoot without interruption.
My work has changed a lot thanks to that one photo shoot.
Is there anything else you wish to add and what do you think about 1X as a home base for your work?
Until I started posting on 1X, I only showed my work to my good friends. I hated showing my work to others. I had no confidence in my artistic abilities (same as now, actually) and thought that nobody would treat my photos as a work of art.
At the end of 2015, my friend Naoki Matsumura recommended 1X to me. I knew a little about 1X because all of the photos in their gallery are of very high quality. I was thinking if the site was something for me. Naoki told me, "I'm sure that everyone who sees your work will be surprised." I only half believed him but it was enough to convince me to upload my work on 1X.
Actually, I don't know if anyone was surprised by my work or not but I started to mindlessly upload my work to 1X. Most of my work was rejected in the beginning but having just a few works published gave me confidence and great courage.
In 2017 I participated to all kinds of contests from all around the world. I got many awards from PX3, MIFA, TRIERENBERG SUPER CIRCUIT and ND awards. I am so grateful to my friend Naoki who gave me his encouragements, to 1X and all the outstanding photographers here.
Thanks from the deepest of my heart.