Masahiko Kuroki’s photography, a flavor of Japan in BW
Masahiko Kuroki is an artist, painter and photographer, based in Tokyo, Japan. He has a keen eye for architectural details and urban photography. BW is particularly suited to his style of photography and enables him to fully express his abstract vision of the surrounding urban setting.
by Alessandra Bettoni
I’ve always been fascinated by the works of this BW artist. I think he has a very special and elegant touch to grasp the essential aspects of the architectural and urban context where he lives. His photographs are essential, polished, precise and very effective as they always represent a very personal and captivating vision of Tokyo, the city where he lives and that I’d really like to visit one day.
There is a very personal vision in his urban photographs. It’s about framing and point of view, he has a keen eye on architectural details and the ability to make urban context look spectacular through linear but sophisticated processing. Composition is never trivial. These are the main features that make Masahiko Kuroki one of the most interesting authors in our social “small world”.
Masahiko Kuroki was born in 1959 in Yokohama, Japan. He now lives in the suburbs of Tokyo with his wife Yumi and Hinako, a Shiba Inu dog, one of his preferred photographic subjects. Despite his degree in Political Science at Saint Paul’s university, he started his art study at the Bunka Gakuin in Tokyo. Today he is an artist, a painter, a singer and a photographer.
AVB: Welcome Masahiko and thank you so much for your kind availability. You are an artist, dealing with painting and photography, can you tell us how was the start? Where does your passion come from? Is it something related to your family, to your country? Is there a specific event/moment which triggered in you the passion for photography? When did it happen?
MK: Thanks to you for this opportunity, I’m pleased to be here. Art is something belonging to my family. My grandfather was an architect, my father is an artist painter. I still remember when I took my first picture. I was 10 or 11, I took a landscape with a small Olympus Pen. My dad praised me for that shot and probably that has been the trigger. I have been in love with photography since then. I’ve been studying photography on my own and in my 20s I got a job in a music magazine as a photographer. At a certain point in my life I’ve switched to painting and I actually became painter, even though I have been addressing photography for the last 12 years.
AVB: Stylistically, your approach to photography is very well defined. Your photography is mainly characterized by the usage of a strong BW? Why?
MK: It’s right, I love B&W photographs, but on the contrary I’m colorist as a painter. Also, I like vivid color for my personal belongings. For examples, my car is yellow, my bag is orange. I don’t like wearing black or gray. With photography it is different. I collect only BW photography books and my favorite photographers shot in BW. For my artistic sensitivity B&W suits perfectly to Tokyo, since the urban setting, streets and buildings, are mainly grayish. BW processing allows me to abstract from the real context and express my personal vision. Yes, I definitively love BW!!
AVB: Before focusing on architecture, would you tell us something about yourself? How would you describe yourself in few words and how would your wife describe you? We assume that she probably knows you better than anyone else 🙂 Going more specifically on your work, how do you feel as an artist? Are you more a loner rather than a person used to stay among people?
MK: It’s a hard task! Well, I would describe myself as a creative talent. There are no better words to describe my attitude and approach to life. My wife is used to say, I’m kind and gentle, but she also says that my character “is not so sharp as my photographs are”. I guess, that’s a positive comment, or not? 🙂 As I said before, I deal with painting and photography, but i also love playing guitar and singing and I think these artistic expressions are really well combined: painting and photographing are solitary and delicate works, while singing and playing guitar allow me to stay among people, relaxing and amusing with many friends.
AVB: Let’s now switch on architecture. We can assume you love urban architecture, we are charmed by your personal vision of cityscape and buildings, which is mainly focused on Japan and the town where you live. What is your main inspiration when you go out for a shooting? Is there a link between your urban photography and the place where you live?
MK: I realized how much interesting the architectural photograph could be when I discovered the architecture series of Hiroshi Sugimoto – a very famous Japanese photographer – in his big exhibition in Tokyo, 2005. Those series have inspired my urban vision. As you know, I live in Tokyo and through my photography I aim at highlighting the beauty of my town. As you may imagine, the cityscape is very confused, full of redundant elements which are badly affecting the composition. Furthermore buildings are ordinary and almost similar, only a few are really impactful.
Blurred architecture series by Hiroshi Sugimoto
Worse still, Tokyo is a town with narrow streets and a wired sky. It’s difficult to take picture of the whole building or avoid all those redundant elements. That’s why I have been thinking to approach architecture by capturing the detail, adding to the composition the geometric perspective, resulting in a captivating play of lines and shapes.
By this approach, any ordinary apartment or commercial building has definitely a few interesting and notable points to be captured. It takes a lot of time to me: first of all I have to determine the right points when I take a building picture. I walk down the street many times, looking up and around restlessly. My friends often laugh at me. However, I’m pretty sure you can understand!
AVB: What kind of cameras, lenses or equipment do you use when you go out for an architectural shoting?
MK: When I take architectural photographs I use Fujifilm X-T2, XF18-55mm F2.8-4 and Samyang 12mm F2. Sometimes I use X30 or iPhone6. My only obsession with equipment is lightness. I don’t like a big heavy camera like a full-frame digital SLR because I walk around streets all day.
AVB: In conclusion Masahiko, we can actually perceive in your work and in your words, you put a lot of passion in what you do. What would you suggest to inexperienced people willing to approach photography? What did you learn from your experience?
MK: First of all, I would suggest to take a detailed look at works of the great predecessors. All the answers are in their works, not in trends. The most important thing for photography is the beauty in light, shadow and tone. You might want to keep that in mind.
AVB: Masahiko we’d like to thank you for this lovely chat and wish you all the best in your future. See you soon in the Group then.
MK: Thanks to you for this kind opportunity and greetings from Japan to all your readers.