Kouichi Nakazawa Saint Maison3.jpg

INTERVIEW WITH KOUICHI NAKAZAWA

"I'm not a paparazzi." Japanese photographer talks about his new life as an artist.

THE INTERVIEW WAS DONE ON

31 OCTOBER 2020

S.M

"Can you start by telling us a little bit about you?"

K.N

"My name is Kouichi Nakazawa. I'm a Tokyo based photographer. I actually followed a pretty orthodox career, starting from studio man, being an assistant to other photographers, and becoming independent over time."

S.M

"You're probably most known for your works in New York. Do you fly there often?"

K.N

"Yes. Definitely. The first foreign land I went to was New York. I used to fly to all sorts of places when I was younger...in university...but there were 10 years blank until I flew there again. I think it was 2009, where DJ Kaori and G-Shock were doing a photoshoot in New York, and I was there...and almost instantly re-fell in love with the city. One of my good friends asked me why not just live there. So I did exactly that in 2011. I was there for 2 years until 2013 but I basically go there every fashion week, Gov Ball, Panorama, and other festivals and stuff. I wasn't able to go recently because of the pandemic, I'm usually there for around 90 days every year."

S.M

"You have been taking a lot of pictures of celebrities, rappers, models, etc. Would you say that this your work as a photographer? or something more like a paparazzi?"

K.N

"Hmmm...How do I explain this... Everything started from the first New York fashion week I visited years back. I always loved taking snapshots of other people. Originally I was hired by a Japanese company to go there to take pictures of the fashion week. People there... the sites...atmosphere...etc. That was 2012 where the whole street luxury scene was an uprising. So I ended up taking a lot of pictures of people that were there, including rappers and models. Surprisingly, my client wasn't really aware of who those people were when I showed them the pictures. But this experience was very important because it was something that wasn't really there in Japan. Maybe due to the nature of fashion weeks, people are always happy to be photographed. So I guess I'm not exactly a paparazzi, because I normally ask if it's ok to take pictures. Or maybe I'm just a paparazzi with some manners."

S.M

"By the way, how do you get so close to the celebrities?"

K.N

"Well, it because there's always an after-party after a show. Being there alone just brings lots of chances because there is a level of trust between the people present. So it gives me the chance to take some really nice close up shots. How I end up at those parties...that's a secret. Lots of stuff I can't really say...If you know what I mean."

S.M

"Wow, that tickles my curiosity. By the way, any favorite rappers recently? I know you're super into that."

K.N

"I saw Chance the Paper and Bigsean live at the Lollapalooza in Chicago. That was awesome. And Gov Ball in New York…Frank Ocean, Rex Orange County, Travis Scott…also awesome. Tyler and Rocky…Mac DeMacro...Coachella…Siza, Future, DJ Khaled…Dababy....Made in TYO…the list goes on. When the live is good, I normally end up liking the artist more. 

A bit different from the question but in recent years I somehow end up seeing Travis Scott a lot. Like in Fashion weeks. Back in the days, he was with the ASAP mob a lot in I used to see him around in New York all the time. I love their very unique blend of fashion and music culture. It was all very real for me. In 2018, I went to the Posty Fest in Texas. The heat there was crazy because its his hometown. And the Hype Fest in New York was crazy too. Digging through the security was a lot of effort."

S.M

"In those dive-in photoshoots, do you have any episodes that were particularly memorable for you?"

K.N

"In one of the brand after-party, I was obviously stopped at the entry. I had a shot with the designer so I thought if I show the picture to the security, he’d let me in. Well, I didn’t. So I ended up pretending to deliver something to the cloakroom and just snuck right in. Sometimes I just wait outside for 2-3 hours…you know…at the back entrance, etc. But doing that in the freezing winter is a pain."

S.M

"Didn’t know that I take so much patience. Tell us a little bit about your motto, or something you strive for."

K.N

"That's a simple one. Just keep taking scenes I love. I chose it because I love it. Fashion weeks, music festivals, trade shows, art shows…etc. There are always so much cultures there. And celebrities are always there too. And all those after-parties, pop-ups, private parties, etc. I love the research, the planning, and everything around it."

S.M

"So what made you dive into the art world?"

K.N

"I had all those pictures and I was wondering what can I do with them. Printing them out and doing an exhibition felt a bit plain and boring to me. Back in the days, I came across Aoyama Teruma’s free paper called the DREAM PAPER, and I loved it. So I started making my own zine called the Gotham Timez, throwing in my photography works into it. In the beginning, it was like a street fashion free paper, but it was acting as a unique format of portfolio for me. 

1000 units in Tokyo and New York, made available in shops, hotels, bars, and few casual restaurants. And every time I launched a new print, I threw parties at the studio, and over time people started buying my work. It was such a wonderful feeling, you know... when people you don’t know are showing lots of love for your work. That’s where I started working on photography in the field of art."

S.M

"When you say "photography in the field of art" what do you mean? What lead you to the current style?"

K.N

"I had all those pictures and I was wondering what can I do with them. Printing them out and doing an exhibition felt a bit plain and boring to me. Back in the days, I came across Aoyama Teruma’s free paper called the DREAM PAPER, and I loved it. So I started making my own zine called the Gotham Timez, throwing in my photography works into it. In the beginning, it was like a street fashion free paper, but it was acting as a unique format of portfolio for me. 

1000 units in Tokyo and New York, made available in shops, hotels, bars, and few casual restaurants. And every time I launched a new print, I threw parties at the studio, and over time people started buying my work. It was such a wonderful feeling, you know when people you don’t know are showing lots of love for your work. That’s where I started working on photography in the field of art. 

I used to give out copies of my work to friends at weddings and stuff, and they were telling me that it wasn’t signed…and it didn’t state edition numbers. Especially people who are in the photography industry were telling me about how important those things are. So I started putting more time into the execution of presentation, pricing, etc. Like nowadays, if you have the digital version of the image, you could basically replicate works as many times as you want. Creating one of one became more and more important for me. Making things unique.

One of my clients asked me to present my work at one of the newer facilities in Hinodesan Bridge. Instead of just doing it in an orthodox way, I started to tape the frame. I didn’t do anything to the actual photographs. Then people started to ask me where the frame was made. Funny stuff huh. Taping became a thing since.

Also, ANAGRA in Hanzomon did a group exhibition once and I exhibited some of my works, this time with taping on the photographs. I had some interesting feedbacks cuz in back in the day lots of international rappers didn’t really hit the mainstream culture in Japan and half of the people couldn’t recognize the portraits. 

Finally, in October last year, I threw a full solo exhibition in New York with the taping style, where the taping itself was randomized and also acting as the frame. There were 7 pieces in total and each one was unique one-offs.

Then this year was where I met the creative director of Saint Maison. I think it was in May. He was throwing some interesting ideas at me when we had our first meeting. I still remember him telling me about the importance of craft and handmade-ness. To be honest, I was a bit upset, but at the same time, I thought it was a good chance to grow as an artist. Letting go of the whole concept of photography once and focus on art, especially after receiving some advice from Mr. Saito (Saint Maison Creative Director) I tried few things out using image transfer, transferring images on to different fabrications at the beginning. Some turned out great, some not so much. I did all sorts of stuff for about 2 months and a happy accident happened…

I can’t really say what happened but I ended up testing more on the product of the accident and reached the current transparent photography style. It was a long journey for me, from photography to art, which is why I’m grateful for all those around me that encouraged me to do it."

S.M

"Thank you for going through the story. Sounds like an epic journey. Due to the pandemic, the art world has been changing, for good or bad. What’s your view?"

K.N

"Honestly, I think it's a dark time but it's also a wonderful chance to explore. Online exhibitions and the adoption of the digital world is a great expansion of the traditional art world. Tokyo Art Book Fair has gone virtual and even smaller physical exhibitions are limited in numbers. I think it gives people more time and opportunity to talk about art, communicate better. I like the rise of new platforms, I think it lets artists focus more on their work."

S.M

"Despite all the problems in the world, what sort of future do you imagine? Or visualize?"

K.N

"It's hard to forecast the future but I hope that somehow, individuality and identity are protected but the boundaries like countries are eliminated. It would be amazing if there is a future where you can go wherever you wanna go, whenever you wanna go, and do whatever you want."

S.M

"In that world what sort of role do you think an artist would play?"

K.N

"Even if the countries have beef at each other, people tend to get along fine at an individual level. Artists should be able to act as a catalyst for linking those pipes, create a sense of unity, idealism, faith, etc."

S.M

"Last question, If you could take pictures of anyone in the world, who would you want to take?"

K.N

"Wow, that’s a tough one. I have too many people on the bucket list. But if this was somehow possible, I would say the Japanese Emperor. Perhaps because it's so far from the field I work in at the moment."

SUBSCRIBE

Be the first to know. Get updated on contents, products, news and inspiration.

© 2020 SAINT MAISON All rights reserved