I have been looking for role models that practice photography and make it possible to live in Japan. I have been following Ontoshiki for a couple of months now on Flickr. What amazes me is that he adapts to different mediums whether it be fashion, documentary or street photography. His photographs has that ethereal look that I cannot describe. So I just had to ask Ontoshiki for a few questions so that we can all learn from his experiences.
When did you start your journey in photography? Did you have any formal education?
I've been shooting since I was a teen. I remember buying an APS system film camera in high school and in hindsight I don't think it was the best choice but I won't go into detail about it. In any case, I was happy that I was able to shoot snaps of friends and it could also produce panoramic shots. I remember enjoying the process of loading the film and taking it to the labs waiting for the results. After saving some hard-earned money I bought my first digital camera it was a 1.3 megapix and I got hooked on shooting as I was not financially-constrained. I didn't shoot anything but friends and parties but I remember I'd bring my camera everywhere I went. I went through a few other compact P&S cameras in my 20s including the Cybershot and Sanyo c6 shooting snaps not knowing that during this time, all the while it probably helped me learn the basics of photographic composition.
In 2005, I made a big decision to quit a decent job and I eventually arrived in Tokyo in early 2006. 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. I bought a second-hand Canon Digital Kiss . I loved being able to manipulate images with it so my journey into learning the technical side of photography started. A year later, after being inspired by film photographers I came across, I ventured into film photography and immediately fell in love with it when I bought a Pentacon 6. That was the start of my more artistic endeavors and my journey into finding my own visual identity and voice.
I don't have any formal education but I will be going to Paris , France to study at SPEOS school of photography to fine-tune my photography. I'm going to Europe in order to broaden my visual stimuli through European arts and culture as well as to do some networking, so in my case, I feel it's needed. Not everyone needs to go to a photography school - I was able to get to where I am today by practicing and analyzing other people's work but now I want to master it.
Credit: fashion, hair and styling by Victoria Deleske
What do you consider a great photograph? What elements do you look for?
A photograph has to evoke feelings and emotions; that makes a good photograph. I don't care if a photograph follows all the technical elements of photography or have all that fancy HDR stuff; if it doesn't communicate it doesn't make a good photograph. So one has to keep shooting until they find their own identity, voice and style. I've seen photos which are technically sound but there are 100s of the same ones online...You may be impressed the first time you see a new car but after you've seen the same car 100 times , you hardly take notice. Perhaps not the best analogy but you get the point.
How do you describe your style?
I don't know if i have a style per se; I'm still evolving as a photographer. I feel my style is as inconsistent as ever and it is frustrating. Having said that, I do enjoy shooting street photography and documentary on black and white film with a high contrast, moody feel. Recently, I've started to shoot more digital, especially with my assignments and portraiture work and I like to work with colors to evoke mood and feeling inspired by the likes of Van Gogh, Christopher Dolan, Tim Burton, Wing Shya and Wong Kar Wai.
I looked into your bio and I see that you have quite a lists of inspirations. What are the things that you learned from people who inspire you?
Each individual is unique and have paved their own path in life and I've taken elements and learnt from each of them. Just by looking through their work and reading about their life online as well as going to bookstores , I've discovered the many paths these photographers and artists took. In general, inspiration comes in four forms . 1) other peoples work 2) gear acquisition 3) being in new surroundings or being around new people 4) analyzing your own work - perhaps there are other triggers for inspiration but those are the mains ones I believe. So every now and then do one of the above, rotate.
Do you do anything beforehand prior to a photoshoot? How much preparation do you do? ie. lighting etc...
For documentary, I hardly do any preparation but I might do some research on the subject or location. However, for shoots I do with models or clients obviously I would have to discuss the theme, fashion, styling, storyboarding prior to the shoot. At the moment, I don't use much lighting but in future I would like to. I do have a flash but I really love the challenge of using ambient light . I know I need to start working with artificial lights and studio work and that is what I'll be doing in Europe a little more.
How much direction do your give to your subjects during a photoshoot?
I have always been a bit of a control freak but when I first started shooting people years ago, I tend to let my subjects go with the flow naturally. These days I get involved with directing my subjects quite
a lot - from how they position their heads, hands, feet and what emotions to express; it does make a lot of difference in terms of achieving the end result I have in mind. Having said that, I like to let the subject feel the character first, I always allow room for them to make suggestions and I make adjustments on the fly. I often improvise during a shoot and find new ideas and props to incorporate and the story just flows more often than not …for some reason.
What do you love the most about what you do?
Photography is as much about self-gratification as it is about self-discovery ; it is very meditative for me. That is what I love about it. I'm convinced that I am participating in co-creating the universe when I shoot ; I am discovering my inner universe as well as expanding the outer. At the end of my life or when time ceases to exist, I hope to leave behind a body of work I can feel proud of. I've always enjoyed collecting things when I was a kid - from stamps & stickers, to posters and CDs, to toys and video games, to trading cards...but now I'm collecting memories… and it is something which has the most value and meaning for me.
Credit: fashion, hair and styling by Victoria Deleske
What would like to say to aspiring photographers who want to follow the same path?
First of all, I don't know if I've actually achieved anything yet with my photography but simply to be persistent. Do something related to photography every day. Be a student of photography. Read the masters, study the photos, analyze your own photos, meet photographers , create a web presence - it is all about the laws of attraction. “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”
Is there anything else you want to say to the readers?
Yes, I apologize to all my contacts and followers. I really appreciate all their comments and visits. In recent times I haven't been interactive on the Flickr, Google Plus and other SNS as I have been so consumed by inspiration and passion. I have been living in my own world and trying to go deeper inside my inner voice. I have to focus on my vision and I'm trying not be influenced by other people's work as much as before. Since the start of 2012, my new website and my interest in spirituality and yoga has also eaten what is left of my time. I do promise I will continue to shoot and bring you interesting work, so I thank you and I appreciate you and everybody who has shown an interest in my work and given me support. Thank you!
To learn, follow and view more of Ontoshiki's work, Here are the links below: