Greetings, my name is Yuzuru, pronounced "Yoo-zoo-loo", but most often my international friends use my nickname "Joe". I am a photographer specializing in spatial photos of hotels, architectural structures, and interiors, as well as tourist spots, famous places, so-called "power" or "mystery spots", and travel images. I also retouch fine art portraits in my unique style; you can read about my background, philosophy, and process below.
Regarding My Background:
I was born in Saitama Prefecture. Saitama is in a comfortable category between the city and the countryside but all the same is something of a watered down version of Tokyo. Because I was born in this prefecture, which has a reputation as being 'thin', in the sense of being neither big city nor deep country, I have been interested in exploring things such as 'cultural differences' and 'city individuality' since I was little. For instance, from the time I was in junior high school, after classes I would take my small allowance and spend it to go walking around Tokyo for hours upon hours, looking with anticipation for anything that would catch my interest.
After entering university, I began travelling around Japan, and to date I have spent time, in some cases quite extended, in a total of more than 40 countries. After experiencing numerous cities, the people's values, and the culture of those countries, I am currently choosing Kyoto as the place both to live and to express myself as an artist.
What Fascinates Me About Japan:
From Soya Cape in the north to Okinotori Island in the south, Japan is about 3000 kilometers in length, thus the Japanese archipelago extends from a tropical island of 20 degrees south to a world of ice at 45 degrees north. Hence the traveller is blessed with an incredible range of natural features for exploring unique to this special country.
In addition, Japan is said to have four seasons, but the four seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter are beautifully divided into three month periods within the year. I feel that one's sense of the beauty of the seasons is heightened by the gentle changing of the weather, helping us to experience the seasons with a more poignant awareness.
Despite being the same world, when we consider the Nature's transitions, scenery, even including the daily activities around town--all these are completely different in each season, to the extent that there is a feeling of being in a different world.
Having such a variety of climates, in Japan one can enjoy a rich variety of natural features and flowing impressions from season to season. These include the colors of flowers and trees, as well as the seasonal events and celebrations in Japan's numerous shrines and temples, so pervasive that this gives one a sense that the country itself is flowing with the season.
I have been to various countries, but one that incorporates the seasons into life patterns in a form that is as clear as Japan, and expresses them as culture, is a rare thing. It is almost as if my soul is nourished when I feel the change and beauty of nature in everyday life.
In addition Japan has Shinto, its native religion which sees gods in all the things of Nature, and which is the only polytheistic religion in the developed countries. Over time Shinto has incorporated Buddhism, later imported from abroad, and various religions such as Christianity and Islam. All these various religions coexist without conflict in Japan. There is no doubt that this country's conception of nature, and the awareness of the workings of the "10,000 Things", combine to create its unique environment.
This is especially true in Kyoto: here there are the general headquarters for Shinto shrines from around the country and the head temple of many Buddhist denominations, and therefore religious services and ceremonies are held almost on a daily basis. The transition of the seasons is marked by the flowers displayed on the temple grounds, and festivals corresponding to those flowers and other natural seasonal phenomena are held to celebrate and set the tone for the season each year.
As an artist living in a country with such an uncommon civilizational history, incorporating minute changes in the quality and tone of the air, subtle changes in the weather, natural metamorphoses, and such phenomena into photographs and, moment by moment, directing the viewer's attention to the more delicate and refined aspects of the colors in each and every shot is one unique sensibility I have been blessed with by being born in this country, and actively sought to develop.
Regarding My Experience:
I have enjoyed traveling since my university days and travelled around not only Japan but also visited many foreign countries. I traveled Europe by bicycle while sleeping in a tent for a year, have also backpacked Asia, and traveled primarily for photography for longer periods in the US, Europe, and the Middle East, having countless adventures. Through interactions with the local people while photographing at luxury hotels, I keenly sensed the differences in culture style and lifestyle, and learned a new sense of appreciation for 'quality' in both the local and luxury sense of the word.
From the hospitality unique to that country, I grew to believe that I would like to treat the people whom I met in the same way, valuing the genuine warm hospitality and concern for others that goes beyond borders. It is an interesting position to be in to be able to feel the characteristics of the culture of a country even while receiving first-class service.
When I stayed in various countries, I came to see things from the perspective of travelers in Japan, and I realized that things the local people regarded as natural or common sense was a great key to understanding the culture of the country one is visiting.
In addition, I have come to an awareness that our lives in the present are based on old history and traditions, and by living in Kyoto, a town that might be called a textbook of Japanese history and culture, I have a keen sense of living in a timeless space.
I think that, by cherishing the living ancient beliefs of the land and the resulting reactions of the artist to that place, beauty can be further polished and refined. I regard it as my job to photograph with this feeling and to retouch photos to convey the charm of the place.
Regarding the Creation of Images:
In creating images, it is my aim to inspire an enduring and impressive drama, and convey an emotional message to the viewer which makes them naturally feel and ultimately take action on their spontaneous impressions of "I want to go there." and "I want to experience that."
After shooting, I use my experience and sensibility to finely retouch the image with special consideration to enchant the viewer, to draw them into my original experience of the beauty of the location in a 2-dimensional medium.
I carefully look at the most attractive parts of the subject and use retouching technology to make the beautiful aspects even more beautiful and draw the viewer deeper into the image.
In the shooting of a scene, the best image in terms of composition, background, and subject are decided upon in terms of their match as a total image, and then I set out to capture the appropriate amount of light at the right angle, resulting in an extremely beautiful photograph. Retouching technology is used to more precisely express fine details and contrast within the image.
In order to create a work that is truly extraordinary, the drama of the background is meticulously considered as an element in relation to the positioning of the subject to produce a distinctive feeling. Next I decide on the precise composition that guides the gaze of the viewer, all the while reading and timing the light that pours into the scene, and simultaneously make use of adjustable lighting technology. In this way, by determining the composition, background, and subject matching that can be best viewed as an single image, we will draw out precise depictions in the retouching work to be performed as the next process, and finally complete it as a high-quality image.
Retouching technology is necessary to create the image that conveys the expression you want to convey as close to 100% as possible.
It is necessary not only to take what you want to show beautifully, but also to breathe new life into the photos by using the computer monitor to create maximum expression of fine details.
At the retouching stage, what is necessary as a further condition for the picture taken at the scene is to determine what the crucial essence of that shot is. For instance, to direct the subject at the moment of the best lighting conditions.
In order to create atmospheres and textures, light is adjusted to both create and eliminate shadows staging the beautiful drama of subject and background. In this final stage, it is key not only to precisely light the subject, but it is the uniquely Japanese attention to shadow that is essential in order to make the subject look even more beautiful, producing a superior photo.
The final created image has an interwoven color palette, texture of the scene itself, sense of reality of the scene, impressive sense of size of the subject...and in a sense the smell itself that can not be sniffed; all these are the message that I seek to build into my photographs.
Please feel free to contact me in English, if necessary.